The day after it was over, the players blamed themselves, and the coach blamed a "stale" roster that needs to be retooled, a process that could take some time for the Vancouver Canucks.
With his job on the line, John Tortorella used his podium on Monday morning, as the Canucks cleaned out their lockers, to the declare the deficiencies he felt he was working with this season. He spoke in measured tones but the words were missiles, aimed in all directions, often at recently fired general manager Mike Gillis.
Tortorella described the veteran Canucks roster as stale from the start of the year, said the team lacked depth, and several times said the team and city has to stop thinking about 2011 – the year the Canucks nearly won the Stanley Cup.
He called for an addition of younger players to bring enthusiasm and also said some of the core of the veteran roster needed change too.
Tortorella was set to meet with new team boss Trevor Linden later on Monday.
"The team needs to be retooled," said Tortorella at Rogers Arena. "It's a young man's game."
He added it likely will take time and not be an instant revival: "You need to be prepared for that."
The coach spoke at a podium in the press room after four veteran players, Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler, and Kevin Bieksa, appeared together. The group had defended their coach, saying the failings of this season were not the system of play but the players themselves.
(Daniel left the ice on a stretcher Sunday night for hospital before being released. He initially couldn't raise his head after being hit into the boards in the second period against Calgary but hospital scans indicated no problems and there were no concussion issues. "Everything should be okay," said Daniel.)
The Canucks had their worst season in 14 years and scored the fewest goals, in regulation or overtime, for a full season in the franchise's history.
But like a year ago, captain Henrik Sedin said the team was on the verge. The players presented a narrative in which the Canucks were a true contender last fall but were waylaid by injury in the winter and underperformed. Bad luck – a terrible shooting percentage – compounded the problems.
"I don't think we're far off," said Sedin – and then acknowledged he had said the same last year after the Canucks had played four more games than this season, being swept in the first round of the playoffs by San Jose.
"It's not," said Sedin, "about rebuilding."
The captain sees it one way. The coach, who may or not be around in the fall, sees it another. The new boss, Linden, will decide, likely making the first withdrawal on the tremendous ocean of goodwill Vancouverites have for the revered former Canuck with zero NHL front-office experience.