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Can the Sabres end their NHL drought, emulating the Bills in the NFL?

Achieving even a modicum of success during the 2020-21 NHL season will be absolutely crucial for the Buffalo Sabres. Then again, after so many disappointing campaigns, it all depends on the yardstick we use to judge what can genuinely be considered a successful campaign.

Reaching postseason and the Stanley Cup playoffs would be a major accomplishment, especially considering the recent history endured by Sabres fans. However, we all have our own expectations of what the Sabres can and should do this season.

Some of us would just be happy for a winning season, with more victories than defeats on the board through the regular season, even if reaching the playoffs remained out of reach. For others, nothing less than getting to the playoffs can be considered a successful campaign for the Sabres, seeing that objective as the minimum aspiration the team should aim for.

So how do the Sabres rate with the leading sportsbooks? Well, priced at +5000 in the outright NHL betting odds to win the Stanley Cup, only 4 out of all the 31 teams are considered to have a worse chance of achieving that particular feat. They include the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, Ottawa Senators, and the Detroit Red Wings.

The odds being quoted are hardly surprising, given the Sabres have already gone nine straight seasons without any postseason participation. If they fail to do so again by the end of the 2020-21 regular season, the worst postseason drought in the NHL will be extended to a full decade for the Buffalo ice hockey franchise.

Such a regrettable record is undoubtedly not what Terry Pegula had in mind, following his acquisition of the franchise in February 2011. Far from it, according to comments quoted by ESPN at his first news conference. “Starting today, the Buffalo Sabres’ reason for existence will be to win the Stanley Cup,” insisted Pegula with great pride.

Almost ten years on, winning the Stanley Cup seems little more than an impossible dream, along with the minimum expectation for most franchises each season, which is just to reach the playoffs and even have a chance at the biggest NHL prize. Pegula has devoted lots of time and resources to the project, yet results have still to match those initial ambitions.

Recently, one ice hockey writer expressed serious doubts, pondering whether Pegula has lost interest in the Sabres, focusing more attention towards his other investments like the Buffalo Bills. Interestingly, when Pegula purchased the Buffalo Bills in September 2014, they too were enduring a lengthy NFL playoff drought.

Although that drought eventually lasted for 17 seasons, Pegula managed to turn the franchise around and the Bills reached the 2017 NFL playoffs as Wild Cards. The football team has also produced two winning seasons out of three, during the last three campaigns. Fans of the Sabres will be hoping a little of that fortune can come their way in the upcoming NHL season.