ST. PAUL -- Wild coach Bruce Boudreau has seen his share of disappointing endings to seasons.
He once coached a President's Trophy winner in Washington that lost in the first round of the playoffs. He's had his heart ripped out in seven-game marathon series that could have gone either way. He's finished just short of the Stanley Cup Finals.
But none of those stack up to missing out on the playoffs entirely.
"They were disappointing, but you got to where you were," Boudreau said. "You had the opportunity. When you don't get a chance to go the dance, that's the most disappointing thing."
This season was a first for Boudreau. It's not often he's missed out on the postseason, with this year marking the first time he's started the season with a club and seen it through to the end short of the playoff finish line.
The only other time he hasn't participated in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since becoming a head coach in the NHL was when he was fired from Washington midseason and hired in Anaheim less than two weeks later. The Ducks were in last place at the time and couldn't rally to make the playoffs.
But in terms of season-long frustration? The 2018-19 campaign takes the cake.
"It sucks. How else can you put it? It just sucks. I've been wandering around the house. I haven't even turned on the NHL Network or anything," Boudreau said. "I don't want to hear anything about who's favored, who is not favored in the playoffs. I hope it sits in everybody's craw the way it's sitting in mine because then you'll be determined never to let it happen again."
Boudreau did receive assurances from general manager Paul Fenton that he will indeed be the coach of the Wild when next season begins. The coach, who enters the final year of his original four-year contract he signed when he was hired by former General Manager Chuck Fletcher, said he's excited to be back.
He's also excited to have his blue line back in its entirety.
Boudreau lauded the years of defensemen Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon, especially Suter, who was coming off a devastating leg and ankle injury in March of 2018 that some thought might put his career in jeopardy.
Suter responded by playing in all 82 games and posting nearly 47 points.
"It's funny, because Ryan was really disappointed. Thought, 'Man, what a bad year.' I told him the other day, I said, 'Are you kidding? You couldn't walk from the end of March 'til August. You made it to training camp, you limped ... the first half of the year, just getting by. You played all 82 games. You led the NHL in minutes played and you had almost 50 points again,'" Boudreau said. "I said, 'Ryan, just imagine when you have a whole summer of training and you're healthy.' This was a great stepping stone from what potentially a lot of people thought was a career-ending injury. I'm expecting more from him, actually."
During a season filled with changes -- core players like Nino NIederreiter, Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund were all dealt midseason -- Boudreau said he expects Fenton to make more alterations this summer and continue to put his stamp on a roster that seems to be in transition.
But he's also aware of the players likely to return, ones that form the current core, ones that he hopes helps lead the group back to the postseason.
Change is not something he fears.
"You take it as it comes and you try to mold it," Boudreau said. "I've taken over teams in the middle of the year and not known anybody and you just do that. I don't see that as being much different. But you know that under contract for next year you've got Suter, Spurgeon, Dumba, Brodin. You've got the young guns of Fiala and Donato. You've still got the old guards that are here, so the team is quite capable right now. If things all go well, they are quite capable."
With a full training camp for new faces, and healthy core players on the mend -- and perhaps a couple of summer-time additions -- Boudreau said there is no reason why a return to the playoffs can't come as soon as next spring.
"The way I look at is, we had 101 points last year. And 100 points won the division this year," Boudreau said. "If we can get a little bit better and a little healthier, I don't see why we don't get 100 points every year."
For now, Boudreau will take some time to let the frustration from the season subdue, and he'll head to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he will watch his son, Ben, an assistant coach with the East Coast Hockey League's Fort Wayne Komets, take part in the playoffs.
Eventually, he'll get caught up on the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- but it stings too much right now.
"That's as close as I'm getting right now," Boudreau said. "I'm sure I'll watch. This is what we do but, right now, and there has been no hockey on for three days, so it's OK. But I'm sure I'll watch."
Boudreau just hopes this is the last time he must watch from the sidelines.