5 NHL teams that will face a “playoffs or bust” season in 2024-25

The NHL is an unforgiving league for head coaches and front offices, so the old “playoffs or bust” cliche will affect a few teams next year.
Buffalo Sabres v Edmonton Oilers
Buffalo Sabres v Edmonton Oilers / Lawrence Scott/GettyImages
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Buffalo Sabres

There is no other way to put it for the Buffalo Sabres, whose playoff drought turned 13 last week. Most of this drought has come courtesy of constantly vetting front offices and coaches, but that ended when Kevyn Adams took over as general manager, and Don Granato was promoted to head coach. 

Now that Adams and Granato will be entering their fourth full season together, the time for building this organization has ended. The Sabres have the league’s best prospects pool, but it’s justifiable that the fans will no longer be proud of that. Prospect pipelines don’t punch tickets into the postseason unless they’re actively helping out the big club or if they have players getting traded elsewhere for established talent who will help out the big club. 

Adams and Granato can promote goaltender Devon Levi to the NHL full-time next season, as he’s been everything they expected him to be in Rochester, while Ryan Johnson, Jiri Kulich, and perhaps Isak Rosen can join them. If that were to occur, they would still be entering their first full seasons in the NHL, meaning Adams must also start trading others so this team can be everything next year that they were supposed to be in 2023-24. 

If he doesn’t and the Sabres struggle through another year like they’ve had between October 2023 and April 2024, both the general manager and the coach could be handed their walking papers. Anything less than a playoff appearance in Year 4 of the Adams/Granato era - Year 5, if you count the year they promoted Granato - will be a failure.