The meetings are just about done. Nearly every bag is packed. Locker cleanout is wrapping up today in First Niagara Center, which means the finishing touches are being put on the Sabres' disappointing season.
And let no mistake be made, it was a disappointing season, the players said today.
"It's real difficult," forward Thomas Vanek said. "It's a tough thing to take. Obviously, with the team we have and the expecations we had, at least just to get in the playoffs and give yourself a shot, I think that's all you want nowadays.
"We didn't give ourselves a chance."
Several themes emerged as the players packed up:
*The team wasn't mentally strong. The players said it showed when they'd cough up leads and when they couldn't end losing streaks.
*The franchise-record 12-game road losing streak will be the lingering low point.
*Coach Lindy Ruff wasn't always on the same page as the players, from the way he handled the players in public and private to getting them to buy into what he wanted to see from them.
"To be pointing fingers now is obviously tough," said center Derek Roy in response to Ruff saying over the weekend the core didn't get it done. "Behind closed doors, I think it's fine. You can be hard. It's not fun, but it's good to be hard on your players behind closed doors, on the bench to get them pumped up. I'm not a coach, but I don't think it's the right thing to be saying it to the media."
*The team just wasn't good enough, especially the players the organization looked upon to be leaders.
"I don't think we ever stepped up to that level we talked about and where we needed to be," goalie Ryan Miller said. "We didn't have it. We strayed away from the things every NHL team has to do to be successful.
"There's enough talent in that group of guys to be a winning hockey club and a club that can develop into a contending club -- but we didn't get the job done. That takes some soul searching."