Following another 82 games, the Bruins were left uneasy and lamenting their 2014-15 season, instead of preparing for their eighth straight playoff appearance.
From all of the players, to Head Coach Claude Julien, to General Manager Peter Chiarelli, everyone voiced his own shortcomings and took responsibility for the disappointing end.
"Obviously we didn’t deliver this season, and that’s why we’re talking here on April 13th," said David Krejci. "It’s obviously not a good feeling."
Blame can be pointed in all directions.
"I think it’s really about us not playing to our potential," said Patrice Bergeron. "I think no one’s going to stand here and say that they’ve had a good year or that they’ve overachieved, obviously. It’s a definite down year for us and we didn’t get the results because of it."
For the players, it felt like an uphill battle all season.
"It was frustrating for everyone. I think that we were all not playing to our full potential and it’s always frustrating to see that," said Bergeron.
"You know, when you have a team – and I felt confident starting out the year with the team that we had – you have to do the job. It doesn’t matter who’s in, who’s out, you just have to show up and do your job and step up as a player."
The Bruins' core group was still in tact entering the 2014-15 season. Backstopped by Tuukka Rask, leaders on the back end and up front like Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron showed the way. But there weren't enough Bruins "pulling on the same rope" every night, all buying into the game plans and the system.
"You know, I think there's a lot of players that did it well, and here's other players that didn't do it as well as others," said Head Coach Claude Julien. "And it created those situations and then when those things happen, it becomes a confidence issue, right? Do you trust each out there on doing the right thing?"
"And that's the biggest challenge for coaches nowadays, is getting the whole team to really play the same way and trusting each other, that the right thing is going to be done. And I think there were times, for different reasons, that wasn't happening."
For many, that's where the finger-pointing can begin.
Several Bruins were asked during their final interviews of the season, whether the message from the coaching staff was being received.
"It's unfair sometimes," Bergeron said of that notion. "That's the business we're in. But it is sometimes unfair when you don't perform to your fullest. It's sometimes the way out, the coaches, but I definitely think they weren't the problem. It was us as players, we deserve a lot of the blame."
"It’s not always going to be perfect," said Chara. "You’re not always going to have the team that you always wanted to have or wished to have. It’s about the players – are they willing to sacrifice, are they willing to put everything on line for the team?"
The Bruins' system, with a strong defensive game built on hard work and support with layers all over the ice, has produced success.
"I think that it's proven that it works," said Brad Marchand. "We’ve won a Cup, we’ve been to another Final, we’ve had some great teams, we won the Presidents' Trophy. It works when you play it and want to believe in it. It’s a great system so I don’t think it’s a stale message. It works and that’s on us for not executing."
"I didn't see a doubt," said Julien. "I think players believe in what we're trying to do here, accomplish as a team."
"And I know we worked hard to put a game plan together and whether that happened all the time or not, I'm really not ready to say that it had something to do with the message not being well received, so you know, I still feel that the room is strong in there and our voices are still heard as coaches."
"So to me, I don't think that was a real big issue as far as that was concerned, and really felt, again, the last game of the season and even after we're out, the guys still played hard right till the end, so I don't think there was a thing there that indicated to me that the players - I know what the question is - had tuned me out, more or less."
Still, Julien was sharing in the responsibility, just as all of his players were.
"Did we have everybody going? No, absolutely not. There's guys that had off years and all the stuff that's happened, but at the same time, I'm not going to stand here as a coach and say, 'I'm not taking part of the blame,'" said Julien. "Because, as a coach, you have to try and get the most out of your players."
"It was one of the years where we couldn't get everything out of everybody, so you know what, I have to look at myself as a coach and say, what else can I do to get the most out of some of these players?"
"You know, your core group for the most part was always good, they came and played hard, but I still have to - and I've said that before and I've said that to Peter - that my job as a coach is to get the most out of everybody, and that wasn't the case this year, and I have to take ownership of that as well."
Moving forward, that core group of leaders is still in place.
"I think the group we have is a good group that works well together," said Chris Kelly. "There’s going to be turnover in any locker room, you’re going to have young guys come in and new faces and things like that - I think it just took us a little longer than we would have liked to gel properly, but it did come together and I thought once it did, we had success. I think the group is a talented group and we’ll learn from this."
The team-building process will once again kick in for the 2015-16 season.
A year of failure and not meeting expectations often breeds change. How much change will happen? The evaluation process has already begun, as players are meeting with their coach and GM on Monday to reflect on both their individual seasons and the team's season as a whole.
"It's business as usual, and we started conducting the exit interviews at 9 this morning," Chiarelli said during his season-ending press conference with Julien. "The job, the questions surrounding us, it's part of the job and you have to deal with it and just move forward, but it hasn't impacted my interviews, my discussions, my meetings with Claude….Business as usual until I hear otherwise."
"I'm like Peter, I've had exit interviews today with players and my job continues just like any other year," said Julien. "I'm kind of repeating what Peter said - until I'm told otherwise, I need to continue to do that. I've been here for eight years and enjoy being here and certainly look forward to staying here, but again, having said that, I also understand the nature of this business."
One order of business was Chiarelli telling Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell that the club would not be re-signing the impending unrestricted free agents for the 2015-16 season.
Other roster decisions must be made throughout the spring and summer. Other UFAs include Carl Soderberg, Adam McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski and Niklas Svedberg. The restricted free agents include Dougie Hamilton, Brett Connolly and Ryan Spooner. Milan Lucic, Loui Eriksson and Chris Kelly are all entering the final years of their current contracts. Torey Krug's new one-year contract will kick in. Kevan Miller and traded deadline acquisition Max Talbot will also be in the final years of their deals.
Decisions will eventually have to be made.
"It's a challenge every year to keep good players and that challenge will exist this year, also," said Chiarelli. "So it's a challenge to do that and not ignore your loyalty to players who have given you real good years of service and a Cup and a Final and all that stuff, that's a challenge. But every team has their own challenges in team-building and we're not different, so we'll be facing a number of those this spring and summer, too."
"We have to look at the whole year," Chiarelli said of the evaluation. "Right now, starting with these exit interviews, starting with postmortem, we're looking at areas where we need to improve, and we're not going to react drastically because we didn't make the playoffs, but there's areas of the roster we have to look at."
"And, listen, we're all under review. There's no secret there. And we're going to go about our business and make the right decisions to make this team and the organization better."
The players are anticipating change moving forward.
"I don’t expect anything, and also I expect everything," said Rask. "So, there’s going to be some changes. But you look at the contract situation with some of the guys have and you figure out probably not everybody’s going to be back. So, we’ll see what happens."
"As a player that has been in this organization for a good period of time, I know that we’re going to be better," said Chara. "This is a team that has obviously, high expectations. No matter how we’re going to do it in the offseason, as far as you call it, changing personnel or whatever’s going to happen, we’ve got to do our job on the ice."
"I believe in this group," said Bergeron. "We understand that it is a business and bottom line is, you have to win. Especially in a city like Boston."
"I mean, it’s out of our control as players. Bottom line is we have to regroup and come back a lot stronger next year."