The Islanders missed the playoffs by one point, but could their 2016-2017 failure lead to bigger things in the future?
"That's the margin for error these days," Josh Bailey said. "There's so much parity now, all it takes is that one point. You sometimes don't think of it at the time necessarily, but those are the ones that get you in or keep you out."
"We're going home and we're packing up," Anders Lee, who scored his 34th goal of the season in Sunday's season finale, added. "Our season is over without a chance to continue. It's a bitter feeling."
Though the disappointment stings, interim coach Doug Weight said he believes that this near-miss doesn't change the positive path the organization is on.
"It's not where we want to be, it's not acceptable, it's not fun," Weight concluded. "But for our fans and organization, we're going in the right direction."
Obviously, Saturday night was infinitely frustrating, as the Penguins squandered a late, third period lead to the Maple Leafs, and the Isles were eliminated. But any time you put matters in someone else's hands, that's the risk you take, and the Isles' three game skid at the end of March did just that. But that doesn't negate all this organization has going for it.
Look at a team like the Tampa Bay Lightning, who missed the playoffs two consecutive seasons after an appearance in the Conference Finals in 2010-11, only to bounce back and be in the Stanley Cup Final two seasons later. It happens, especially in hockey. Dealing with adversity and learning from your mistakes can serve a team very well, and that's what the Isles will have to count on heading into 2017-18. So in that way, I think the Isles could certainly use this let down as a jumping off point for next season, where they'll be determined to not let a sluggish start be their undoing again.
There are a lot of questions to be answered this summer - will they opt out of Barclays Center? Is Doug Weight the coach of the future? Will John Tavares be here for the long term? - and once the dust settles, we're going to learn a lot about the future track of the organization. But as far as the players on the ice goes, I think this is a great learning experience, and it wouldn't surprise me if they use this to make themselves a better hockey club next season and beyond.