The refrains were familiar.
"It was a frustrating season "
"We found ways to lose "
"It's really disappointing to miss the playoffs again "
"We have to remember this feeling and make sure we don't have it again "
So it went Tuesday at PNC Arena as the Hurricanes talked with the media and packed up their gear for the offseason. For all that was said, it was, in fact, a feeling some were experiencing for the fifth straight year.
"I thought we had a pretty good team this year," forward Jeff Skinner said. "I think as everyone said, it's frustrating, it's disappointing not being in the playoffs. It keeps happening and we keep saying coming into the year it's going to be the year we turn it around. We still haven't done it yet."
Skinner scored a career-high 33 goals, one of the highlights of the season for the Canes. But he's now played four NHL seasons without being in a playoff game.
"The consistency in our game wasn't there," he said. "To be good in this league you have to be consistent."
The Canes closed the season with 83 points, winning the last two games for a 36-35-11 record.
"That's very average and not good enough to get us close to where we wanted to be or where we thought we could be," defenseman Ron Hainsey said.
The Canes had one five-game winning streak in the season, beginning it with the stirring comeback win over Montreal on New Year's Eve at PNC Arena. But after a four-game winning streak in late-January, they never won more than two in a row and were 12-16-2 in the final 20 games.
"We found ways to lose games," center Jordan Staal said. "There were so many games where we went into the third period and just beat ourselves, or starting games and beating ourselves."
Winger Pat Dwyer said the Canes were hurt by a poor start when the NHL season resumed after the Olympic break. Carolina had a five-game road trip, took a tough loss at Buffalo to start, then dropped games against Dallas, the L.A. Kings and Anaheim Ducks before an overtime win against San Jose.
"That slide on that trip to the West Coast I think ultimately put us in a position where we couldn't get back in the race," Dwyer said. "That set us back to where we couldn't recover."
Not enough to make the playoffs. Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006, the Canes have been just once -- in 2009.
"It's like a snowball. It keeps rolling," Dwyer said. "The first year you're disappointed and by year five you're completely frustrated. It's tough year after year having your (end-of-year) meetings in April and getting ready to go home and watch the playoffs with your son. Eventually you want to be in it and playing for that ultimate prize.
Canes captain Eric Staal has played for and won that prize, the Cup. He said he will watch the playoffs but will ache in doing it.
"I know everyone is frustrated," Staal said. "I know our fans are frustrated. I know management, staff, everyone is."
Asked about the desperation level late in the season, Staal quickly replied, "The desperation has been there, don't worry about that. It was there the first time you miss the playoffs. Obviously, with how many years it has been in a row now it's amped up even more and the frustration level is even higher."