The Blue Jackets ended the 2016-17 season with 108 points, 50 wins and they were not at all pleased. The team exited the first round of the playoffs by a series score of 4-1 at the hands of division rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"We're out in the first round," head coach John Tortorella said. "That's the problem. That's the problem right there. We're out in the first round. So that's not success."
As Jackets leadership has preached all year, there are two seasons. The regular season, and the postseason. The sting of the outcome from that second group of games, arguably the most important, is already motivating players as they head into a summer that, for them, is far too long.
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"I know it sounds crazy because (our season) just ended," Brandon Dubinsky said. "But I can't wait to get back out there. We've got to make sure we have another strong training camp, another strong regular season, and hopefully a longer run in the playoffs. We need to take the next step now and we have the ability to do that and the guys to do it."
The Jackets got a taste of postseason success, and they know they have a bounty of young talent on the roster. They know the future can be bright. But a message from 15-year NHL veteran Scott Hartnell has raised the level of urgency for this group.
Video: Hartnell talks about his reaction to the season
"One thing I said after the game in Pittsburgh is 'You can't always say there's next year,'" Hartnell said. "The next thing you know, you wake up and you are 35 like me and in the twilight of your career. Lot of these guys are 20, 22, 23 years old and if you say, 'Oh, there's next year, there's next year,' you are going to be in the same boat and have wasted a few chances at winning the Stanley Cup.
"It's important to realize that and focus on that this summer and in training camp. Because the next thing you know, (it could all be ending)."
And so a new mantra is introducing itself into the Jackets culture courtesy of their head coach, "good is the enemy of great." This team can't get too comfortable with what they did this year if the future does result in longer and longer playoff runs, and ultimately a Stanley Cup. Quite frankly, this team doesn't want to be satisfied with anything less.
"(In previous years), we've just been a team that's just trying to get to the playoffs," Nick Foligno said. "Now the mindset is how are we going to stay, how are we going to do well, how are we going to win.
Video: Foligno talks about belonging in the playoffs
"I want guys to know that as great as this year was, it wasn't good enough. And that needs to be the motivating factor for every guy coming in here. we have a job to do and this is the team to do it with. And we all know we have a great group in there we think can do it."
Motivated by what they experienced, hungry for what they want next, as each Jackets player left Nationwide Arena this week they knew there was work to do. And their coach is already preparing a grueling training camp with the goal of preparing the Jackets to get to the next level.
"We're a good team but we need to be better," Jack Johnson said. "We're not quite where we need to be. We've seen hard work pay off and that's always great and it keeps you going because you are seeing results. But when you get a little taste of the Stanley Cup playoffs, it makes you want to come back for more."