SAN JOSE -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock may have wanted to say something to his players Wednesday, but he didn't.
"I see the devastation in our locker room right now," Hitchcock said. "Guys aren't even able to speak. ... We've got some guys that are pretty shook up right now.
"... I'm not going to talk to them for a day or two. They need their space with each other. They've bonded here better than any team I've coached in the last 10 years. They need their time together. They don't need me interrupting anything right now. We'll talk at the appropriate time, but right now, they need to be with each other."
The Blues' season had just ended with a 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final at SAP Center. The locker room was somber and quiet, and it's now 46 years since St. Louis last made it to the Cup Final, in 1970.
Video: Hitchcock on losing WCF series, reflects on season
Nobody had a tougher time getting words out than captain David Backes, who can become a free agent on July 1. He talked about the disappointment of being so close but so far away. He broke down in tears when describing the sacrifice of teammate Steve Ott, who Backes said did "something" to help him play in Game 5 even though it meant Ott would not be in the lineup.
"Knowing that he's the guy coming out of the lineup if I can play, that's pretty selfless, and that's the kind of guys we have in here," Backes said. "Just stories like that."
Forward Troy Brouwer won the Stanley Cup in 2010 with the Chicago Blackhawks and realized the Blues had a chance.
"I love playing with these guys," said Brouwer, who was acquired from the Washington Capitals in an offseason trade for T.J. Oshie. "Everyone in here was a phenomenal guy, every guy in here was a phenomenal teammate. We had a lot of laughs, a lot of good times, and it's disappointing that we're all going home for the summer without an opportunity to compete for rings."
Hitchcock won the Stanley Cup in 1999 as coach of the Dallas Stars, and being this close again hit home.
"Yeah, it's disappointing," Hitchcock said, "because it's so hard to win in the League right now. It's so hard to win a series, it's so hard to get into the playoffs. And when you get this far and you get this close, you got the opportunity, and when you have a team like us, which is very much at team, you want to see them successful.
"They poured a lot into it and poured a lot into it through a lot of adversity and then came out on top. But they're hurting right now; we're all hurting. You don't want this to be our best opportunity, you want it to be a building block. But in this game, this era, this [salary-cap] world, you don't know where you're going to be a year from now. This was a great opportunity and guys are really, really disappointed."