Ducks still sorting through what went wrong amid exit interviews

Ducks GM Murray will study and meet with Boudreau before deciding if the coach will return for next season

What escaped the Ducks along with the one victory needed to appear in the Stanley Cup Final is a mysterious element that General Manager Bob Murray and his players continued to search for Tuesday.

The evaluation process that began with players' exit interviews at Honda Center is so thorough, Murray wouldn't even commit to the scenario that Coach Bruce Boudreau will return next season.

"Far too early to tell you what I'm thinking. I've got lots of thoughts in my mind and I've got to sort them out," Murray said.

Acknowledging "the coaching staff made strides" and he was "fairly happy" with their overall work, Murray also said he was displeased with what occurred from when the Ducks allowed three second-period goals in a Game 6 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks to the moment they were eliminated in a Game 7 at home for an NHL record third straight season.

"We did not react properly whatsoever. All structure — all everything — went right out the window," Murray said. "Wasn't impressed by it at all. The unanswered question is still the structure when we get under stressful periods. When you're not playing well, you have to fall back on your structure. It failed us in a critical moment. That's what I'm evaluating."

Boudreau said he expects to convene with Murray by the end of the week.

"We know we're getting better every year and we anticipate getting better next year," said Boudreau, who has two seasons remaining on his contract.

Center Ryan Kesler said he believes the Ducks are "destined for greatness," but need to "get mentally stronger."

"You talk about experience … the only way to gain it is to go through it," said center Ryan Getzlaf, who set a franchise record with 20 playoff points but had a minus-four rating.

"Hopefully, our guys learned some lessons. I did. You get ready for next season, approach it … on a mission to get back to have that opportunity happen again."

But it's the missed opportunities that gnaw, and the fact the Ducks squandered a 3-2 series lead for the third straight season.

"Things have happened too many times over the last few years, and hopefully we'll figure something out," said Corey Perry, who had 10 playoff goals. "We had a lot of good things, the pieces of the puzzle were all fitting together … you're so close."

But not everyone will be back.

That struck Matt Beleskey hard Saturday night, the forward saying he had a "sick feeling" while taking off his Ducks sweater for perhaps the final time after seven seasons. Beleskey enjoyed a breakout 22-goal campaign, but he and veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin, who turns 35 this week, can consider free-agent offers in July.

Beleskey said, "It's kind of tough to think about. I'm not sure what's going to happen. You never want to leave a group like this. You definitely see us climbing and going in the right direction."

Beauchemin said he hopes loyalty comes into play.

"I'm not going to sugarcoat it — It's going to be hard," Murray said on re-signing those two players. "I'll take a shot, quickly, but I have a whole bunch of issues in front of me."

The "issues" Murray is referring to are based on the "tagging" rule in the NHL's collective bargaining agreement that prohibits teams from being on the hook for more money in the following season than the current season's salary cap.

So it behooves the Ducks to not only address this year's potential free agents — including young forwards Jakob Silfverberg and Emerson Etem — but also examine those who could go free after next season. That list includes Kesler, goaltenders Frederik Andersen and John Gibson, defensemen Lindholm, Simon Despres and Sami Vatanen, and center Rickard Rakell.

"You have to address them this year," Murray said.

"This is going to be a great team for the next couple of years," Silfverberg said. "I like it a lot. I'd like to stay here. We'll have to make sure we learn from this and take another step forward. We have a young team, haven't played in these kinds of games."

He said the work that remains provides motivation for the third-youngest team in this year's playoffs (average age of 26.8), but the numbers don't always work out.

Murray said "tagging" concerns could force him to trade, and said playoff performances will influence those decisions.

"We were right there," said Boudreau, "and we took our foot off the gas."

Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire

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