It has taken until now for the disappointment to subside.
The Detroit Red Wings' 2-1 loss in overtime to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals was a bitter pill to swallow.
Especially since the Wings held a 3-1 series lead and appeared to be a lock to advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Blackhawks simply showed why they were the best team in the NHL during the regular season. They scored the critical goal, or made the crucial save, when the situation called for such a play.
It's not that the Wings didn't play well the last three games of the series. The Blackhawks just played better.
When you look at it, it was the tale of two seasons for the Wings.
Inconsistent and beset by a rash of injuries, the team appeared to have little chance midway through the season to even qualifying for the playoffs.
But a late surge put the team in postseason play and the Wings then beat the Anaheim Ducks to advance to their series with Chicago.
No one gave No. 7-seed Detroit a chance to beat the No. 1 seed Blackhawks in the best-of-7 series.
Most thought the Wings would be lucky to win just one game.
But through sheer effort and determination, the Wings put the Blackhawks on the brink of elimination before Chicago rallied to take the last three games.
It was a gutty performance from a Detroit team in transition after losing defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement and Brad Stuart to a trade just before the veteran was going to become a free agent.
It just wasn't enough to stop the Blackhawks.
It did, however, give Wings' fans hope for the future.
Rookies Damien Brunner, Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist and - in particular - Danny DeKeyser showed a lot of talent and should be major contributors for years to come.
Brunner, Andersson and Nyquist played so well, especially at the end of the season, they made veterans Todd Bertucci and Mikael Samuelson healthy scratches even after they were well enough to play following lengthy injuries.
Brunner is an unrestricted free agent, however, along with Valtteri Filppula, Daniel Cleary, Drew Miller and Ian White.
Filppula and White may not be back with the Wings next season.
Andersson, Nyquist, Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith are restricted free agents. The Wings are expected to keep all four.
And Darren Helm, who missed all but one game this season due to an injury, could be back. If he still has some skating speed he showed previously, he'll be an asset in 2013-14.
The Wings need to add, however - in free agency or via a trade - a top 4-5 defenseman during the offseason and a forward with a scoring touch to bolster the second or third line.
Too many times, the Wings' defense was inconsistent. And too many times, the club just couldn't muster much offense when it needed a key goal.
Farmhands Tomas Tatar and Landon Ferraro are in the wings to help Detroit's offense and goaltender Petr Mrazek is destined to be a starter sometime down the road.
Wings general manager Ken Holland doesn't need to put the team through a major overhaul.
Just a key addition or two would suffice.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is email@example.com.