The championship window for the Ducks was considered big before this season, with most of their core retained from a team that was one win away from the Stanley Cup Final.
But Thursday morning the Ducks figuratively could stick their heads out that window and shout one question: Where do we go from here?
A Game 7 loss at home for the fourth season in a row — 2-1 to the Nashville Predators in the first round Wednesday — forebodes consequences potentially more severe than previous years. The future of Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau is under scrutiny again, and they have a stable of talented young players due to be re-signed amid financial constraints.
General Manager Bob Murray is soon expected to address those issues, which were broached in the immediate aftermath of their surprising elimination.
Asked about potential changes, Boudreau said, "I have no idea. I haven't thought about it. As far as my future, I just come to work every day until I'm told not to come to work. And I think the team, especially the last half of the year, they believed [what] the expectations were and what they were supposed to be.
"The playoffs are a tough thing. There's 16 really good teams, and especially in the West, any of those eight teams that made it were good enough to win it."
Boudreau is signed through next season. This latest playoff exit happened even though the Ducks played their best Game 7 of the four and still lost because Nashville closed up shop around goaltender Pekka Rinne and didn't break.
Murray, who exercised patience after a 12-15-6 start to the season, must assess whether Boudreau's overall success is outweighed by a body of profoundly disappointing playoffs.
Boudreau has presided over four straight Pacific Division titles with the Ducks, who joined San Jose from 2007-11 as the only franchises to win four in a row since the division's creation in 1993-94.
Boudreau has won eight division titles in his nine years as NHL coach and is the fastest in NHL history to reach 300 and 400 wins. He also seems to be well-liked by his players.
Some of those could be moved, if only for salary cap restrictions. Goalie Frederik Andersen is a restricted free agent, along with breakout center Rickard Rakell and defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen. All can make a case for pay raises, particularly Andersen, who reclaimed the No.1 job with a 1.41 goals-against average in the playoffs.
The Ducks already have goalie John Gibson, 22, signed for the next three seasons. Gibson, seen as the goalie of the future, was second in the NHL with a 2.07 goals-against average in the regular season.
On offense, second-half forward acquisitions David Perron and Jamie McGinn are unrestricted free agents, along with veteran forwards Shawn Horcoff, Chris Stewart and Mike Santorelli.
For the precocious defense — six defensemen are 24 or younger — the Ducks have Kevin Bieksa, 34, and Clayton Stoner, 31, under contract through 2017-18.
The mileage also continues on the bodies of their threefold foundation of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler. The Ducks are tied to them through at least 2021 with contracts intended to take advantage of that championship window.
Getzlaf lamented how another year lost closed it a little more.
"We were playing catch-up the whole game, the whole series, all year, and it came back to bite us here in the end," Getzlaf said.
It was announced that Kesler and the Kings' Anze Kopitar are finalists for the Selke Trophy, given to the forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game.