Hearing from the LA Kings, two days after their season ended, didn't provide much of a surprise: The entire organization was disappointed. As defenseman Drew Doughty put it, he now has to watch 16 other teams compete for the Stanley Cup over the next eight weeks.
So, what's next for the Kings?
"Go back to the drawing board and continue to try to get better," Doughty said. "Each and every one of us need to do that."
After finishing the season with 71 points, 27 fewer than last year's total of 98, many are are already looking ahead at next year.
"It's a relief it's over in a way. As one of the leaders, I take a lot of the responsibility for it," Doughty said.
General Manager Rob Blake expressed that structure and motivation will be the most important keys moving forward, two things that were noticeably missing this season.
Video: Kings General Manager Rob Blake spoke with the media
Blake has a tough summer ahead of him, and both he and the players are prepared for it. "Blake has been in the game for such a long time," Doughty said. "He knows what he's doing and I trust what he's doing."
With 10 picks in the 2019 NHL Draft and what could be a busy free agency period in July, Blake said he is hoping to add between eight to 10 new players to the roster.
"I want first overall obviously. A top-five pick regardless is huge," Doughty said. "That can help turn around the franchise right off the bat."
"I know it's not going to be the exact same team as two days ago, I can guarantee that. But look at some of the pieces we have - we have some great players, we have some young guys coming up."
Not only will there be new players stepping into the locker room come September, but the Kings will also welcome a new head coach. As the Kings said goodbye to Willie Desjardins earlier this week, the organization will continue their hunt for the best person for the job. "We need a guy who's going to hold everyone accountable," Dustin Brown said.
Video: LA Kings forward Dustin Brown spoke with the media
Although finding the right coach is important, almost all the players feel responsible for the team's success. "If you bring in a coach and you don't have [motivation] individually and you don't have it collectively, it's not going to work," Brown said.
"A little bit is on the coaching, but majority is all on the players and us not playing to the best of our abilities," Doughty added.
The re-creation of the team started earlier this season, with the likes of Tanner Pearson and Jake Muzzin being dealt. And although the sentiment in the locker room is that those changes are tough, it's what they signed up for.
Video: LA Kings defenseman Drew Doughty spoke with the media
"Those decisions are beyond our [control]," defenseman Alec Martinez said. "Just be a professional and get to work. At the end of the day, that's the nature of our business."
"The assumption is that there are going to be changes," Brown added. "Guys have been around long enough, that they understand that side of it, but you don't want to see guys go."
Even though this season was disappointing, the bright spot was that younger players were given the opportunity to shine. Now, it's up to younger players like Alex Iafallo, Adrian Kempe and rookies such as Austin Wagner, Matt Luff and Matt Roy to take advantage of the opportunity and grow in the offseason to be able to contribute in the fall.
Kyle Clifford, who Blake referred to as the "best player on the team" this year, was most impressed by Wagner. "He was a bit of a surprise to me out of training camp," Clifford said. "To watch his game grow... he gotten a lot more comfortable with the puck."
From the defensive side, Martinez looks forward to seeing Roy and Sean Walker grow in the coming years. "Roy did a heck of a job. Walker, same thing. He's a new-age defenseman."
Video: LA Kings captain Anze Kopitar speaks to the media
With plenty of young talent coming in, the veterans recognize they must use this time to get better, so they don't end up in this situation again. Actions speak louder than words, but from what we're hearing, everyone is prepared to do the work.
"We have full confidence that with whatever changes are made, we can improve next season and make a run for the playoffs," Doughty said.