Disappointment, frustration, regret - no matter your season-ending noun of choice, it was probably uttered by a member of the Predators on Wednesday afternoon.
The group that captured a second-consecutive Central Division title and another 100-point season in 2018-19 was left searching for answers after a first-round exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs that concluded in Dallas earlier in the week.
Most of their faces clean-shaven, the Preds addressed what went wrong over the past two weeks - and the past few months on a larger scale - in an attempt to identify the issues, the first step in making sure they're not answering these same questions this early in the springtime next year.
"It's higher than the previous years," Preds defenseman P.K. Subban said of the disappointment around the team. "We felt that we targeted this year to be our year to take another step forward and to get to our ultimate goal of winning the Cup. Our trajectory sort of went the other way, where we went to the Cup Final [in 2017], then the second round and now, with a first-round knockout, that's a tough pill to swallow.
"We wanted better for our team, we wanted better for the city and the organization. It's always extra tough when you love the team, you love the organization, you love the city and everything is put in place for you to win and it doesn't happen."
Video: Subban: I want to be part of the solution with Preds
Consistency, or lack thereof, throughout the campaign was a theme of the discussion. The Predators started hot out of the gate to begin the season, and they finished up with an 8-2-1 run to clinch their fifth-consecutive playoff berth, but everything in between was streaky throughout.
Predators General Manager David Poile said Wednesday there "are some areas we need to address," a fact that wasn't lost on his players, believing those issues bled into the postseason.
"Everybody plays really hard on this team and everybody cares a lot, so I don't think it was a lack of effort, I think it was just us being too inconsistent," Nashville Captain Roman Josi said. "The playoffs were like the whole regular season - we had some good moments and then some bad moments, and I think especially in the playoffs there were some good periods followed up by not so good periods. Just too inconsistent throughout the whole playoffs."
"Playoffs was the story of our season," center Ryan Johansen said. "There were just too many ups and downs. There were moments when you'd be playing a game and you'd be like, 'No one can beat us, we're unstoppable.' And then you'd have moments like, 'Wow, we're never going to win a game playing like that.' And I think that was playoffs, we were too inconsistent, starting with me and our line."
Video: Johansen provides answers for Preds' First Round exit
Like Johansen, many players were also critical of their own individual performances, believing they had more to give when it mattered most. Those efforts are likely to be a focal point of many during the offseason as everyone undergoes the review process.
"You're always going to the playoffs with the mindset of no regrets, and I feel like this year we're going to think about it over the summer and it's going to be a feeling of regret a little bit," goaltender Pekka Rinne said. "I truly feel like we could've been better. It's almost unnecessary to say because you want to leave it out there, but I feel like we weren't at our best in playoffs and it's disappointing."
The mood is always somber in the immediate aftermath of a postseason handshake that doesn't fall in your favor, but eventually, the Preds will head to their respective offseason homes to rest, recuperate and begin training once more in preparation to do it all over again.
For many, chances are high that when they're in the gym needing to power through for just a few more reps this summer, the memories of this disappointment will be be recalled.
Video: Rinne says he focused on next two years with Preds
"You have to find a way to turn it into a positive, something that you can use," Preds forward Colton Sissons said. "We're not just going to be all depressed and have that woe-is-me attitude. We're going to go back to work, we're all going to get better, we're going to get stronger, we'll come back ready to rock and roll in the next season and we'll just continue to build. I believe in my teammates here. We have tremendous character, great leadership, and I think it's just a matter of time. Hopefully, next year we can figure it out."
Poile alluded to some potential changes in the offseason, and while it was much too soon for the general manager to discuss what those may look like, his players also realize that the business of hockey is results-based. When success isn't attained, there is likely to be a different look in the room come training camp.
Video: Josi tells why the Preds fell short in First Round
It remains to be seen exactly how the Nashville roster will set up in September, but you won't find a single player who doesn't want everyone back. At the same time, they'd prefer to be using some different adjectives to describe their season next time around.
"I have a lot more to give to try to win a championship, and I feel we can accomplish that here," Subban said. "That's my only job now, to recover, rest and make use of this time so we can win a Cup in this city. Anyone that doesn't believe we have the players to do that is wrong."
"I really think this group is special, and I really think we have something here that is really good - like really good," Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. "I believe in this team; I believe in these guys 100 percent. There's no doubt in my mind, whatsoever. We kind of took a step back with just being in the playoffs this year. Last year, we went to the second round, but we've got to find a gear. We've got to find a way to be better in the playoffs. That's the bottom line."