Kings make playoffs: 12 longest active playoff droughts in professional sports

The playoff beam has been lit in Sacramento.

The Kings clinched a playoff berth with their victory over Portland on Wednesday. Sacramento’s win also ends the longest playoff drought in the four major North American sports leagues, as the Kings hadn’t been to the playoffs since the 2005-06 season. 

While it has been a long time since the Kings have been to the playoffs, they didn’t own the most-extended drought for long. The Seattle Mariners previously held that record until they reached the playoffs in 2022, marking the first time they reached the postseason since 2001.

Seattle won its wild-card series before getting swept by the Houston Astros in the American League Divisional Series. The Kings are hoping to avoid a similar fate, as they’ll likely hold home-court advantage in their first-round series.

With that said, here are the updated 12 active longest postseason droughts between the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL

1. New York Jets — 12 seasons (last appearance in 2010)

A pair of New York fan bases have experienced misery over the last decade. The Jets haven’t made the playoffs since Mark Sanchez was playing quarterback and Rex Ryan was at the helm in 2010, when they upset the Patriots in the divisional round and appeared in a second straight AFC title game. 

The Jets slowly eroded from there, seemingly bottoming out in 2020 with a 2-14 mark. Following a 7-10 season in 2022, the Jets’ current playoff drought became the longest in franchise history as they previously missed the playoffs in every season between 1970-80.

Hope could be on the way for Gang Green, though, as Aaron Rodgers has stated his intention to play for the Jets in 2023. 

2. Buffalo Sabres — 11 seasons (last appearance in 2010-11)

The Sabres have mostly finished in last place or close to last in their division since 2011. Buffalo drafted Jack Eichel with the No. 2 overall pick four seasons into its drought and traded the young star in 2022. The Sabres’ playoff drought is the longest in NHL history and will likely move to 12 seasons in a couple of weeks, as they’ll need a lot of help to get into the 2023 postseason.

T-3. Detroit Tigers — Eight seasons (last appearance in 2014) 

The Tigers haven’t made the playoffs since they had Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in their starting rotation. They’ve only had one winning season in that stretch and had a dreadful 47-114 campaign in 2019.

T-3. Los Angeles Angels — Eight seasons (last appearance in 2014)

The epic Shohei OhtaniMike Trout battle in the World Baseball Classic title game was the only time fans have seen the two stars play in a high-stakes game. Trout has played in just three playoff games in his career, and the Angels haven’t made it to the playoffs since Ohtani joined the team in 2018. 

T-5. Kansas City Royals — Seven seasons (last appearance in 2015) 

The Royals reached baseball’s mountaintop in 2015, winning the World Series a year after they lost in seven games on baseball’s grandest stage. Kansas City held one of the worst records in baseball in 2022. 

T-5. Pittsburgh Pirates — Seven seasons (last appearance in 2015)

The Pirates earned three playoff appearances in a row (2013-15), but they haven’t recovered since the Cubs beat them in the 2015 NL wild-card round. 

T-5. Charlotte Hornets — Seven seasons (last appearance in 2015-16)

The Hornets nearly squeaked into the playoffs in 2022. They made the Play-In Tournament but were blown out in the opening game. Many thought LaMelo Ball would continue his rise and help Charlotte reach the playoffs in 2023, but injuries plagued his season, and they’re instead chasing the No. 1 overall pick.

T-5. Denver Broncos — Seven seasons (last appearance in 2015)

The Broncos haven’t made the playoffs since their triumphant Super Bowl win to cap off the 2015 campaign. That, of course, was Peyton Manning’s final game. Denver recently traded for quarterback Russell Wilson in hopes of solving its chronic quarterback problem, but it didn’t do much to fix it. The Broncos hired Super Bowl-winning head coach Sean Payton during the offseason believing that he’s the missing ingredient for them to reach the playoffs. 

T-9. Texas Rangers — Six seasons (last appearance in 2016)

The Rangers were a postseason mainstay last decade, clinching a berth five times in seven seasons between 2010-16. But even after signing Corey Seager and Marcus Semien to big contracts, they still finished toward the bottom of the league in 2022. They spent their 2023 offseason money on pitching, adding Jacob deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Heaney. 

T-9. Baltimore Orioles — Six seasons (last appearance in 2016)

The Orioles hit the reset button not long after their last playoff appearance in 2016, leading to some really poor seasons in 2018 (47 wins), 2019 (54 wins) and 2021 (52 wins).

Things might be changing in Baltimore, though, as it has one of the game’s most exciting young group of players. The Orioles also went 83-79 in a loaded AL East in 2022. 

T-9. Detroit Red Wings — Six seasons (last appearance in 2015-16)

Longtime fans of the Red Wings haven’t been too accustomed to the team’s recent stretch. The franchise had a 25-year playoff streak prior to its current drought. The Red Wings’ streak will likely continue in 2023, as they’ll need to make up a lot of ground in the homestretch if they hope to make the playoffs. 

T-9. Detroit Lions — Six seasons (last appearance in 2016)

Detroit fans haven’t had a lot of success to cheer about in recent seasons, but the Lions at least seem to be on the come-up. They were just a game away from making the playoffs in 2022, finishing 9-8 as a Seattle Seahawks loss in the final week of the season would’ve sent them into the postseason.

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