For the seventh consecutive year the Buffalo Sabres cleaned out their lockers following a season in which they failed to make the playoffs.  And as you can imagine there were a lot of unhappy hockey players on Monday at KeyBank Center.

No one on the team expected the season they had, but most of the players vowed to take a good look in the mirror during the offseason and come back in the fall with a determination to make a difference.

Ryan O'Reilly   (Dale Mussen photo)

Probably the most introspective of the Sabres was Ryan O'Reilly who often places a lot of blame on himself.  On Monday he said he spent most of Sunday doing a lot of self reflection and one thing he did determine is that he wasn't mentally tough enough. “We’re stuck in this mindset of just being OK with losing and I feel it’s really crept into myself."  He also went so far as to say he may have lost his love or passion for the game.  Losing will do that to you.

How does he change that?  He says it starts with physical training, something he thinks he's lost touch with and needs to get back to it.

Jack Eichel looked and sounded like a man ready to become captain.  He says the key for next season is getting off to a good start. That was something that didn't happen this past season and they ended up chasing the other teams in their conference.  They dug themselves a hole and never were able to dig themselves out.

Eichel said his greatest frustration was that they played some of the better teams tough, but for some reason let down against the lesser teams.  Those were games where they didn't come ready to play and admitted that's on the players.  What can be done?  It starts every day in practice and your work ethic, ready to compete and ready to get better.

Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen was asked if changes need to be made and he quickly said, "I hope so.  Obviously it hasn’t worked out here and I hope whatever changes there are, they need to be made.”

Coach Phil Housley   (Dale Mussen photo)

Coach Phil Housley said the team has a long way to go.  A lot of work has to be done in the offseason but one thing he said he promised the players in their end of the year meetings is that training camp will be tough.  Meanwhile the  team has a lot of evaluations to do including coaching staff and players and Housley says it'll be a challenge to what the players are willing to change to improve.

So until the start of the 2018-19 season, Sabres management has five months to consider changes and for the players to figure out what they have to do differently as individuals.  It'll be interesting to see what kind of team shows up in September.