They rallied from a non-playoff team to the No. 2 seeding in the Western Conference, set a team record for consecutive home wins, displayed an exciting comeback nature, surprisingly emerged with dueling goalies, and locked up their two pending star free agents.
Yet, the Ducks bowed out to the seventh-seeded Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. So following Sunday's 3-2, Game 7 loss that deprived Southern California of the first Ducks-Kings playoff series, the season assessments were:
"Disappointment. The season, we were satisfied with, but overall, coming as far as we did, playing as hard as we did and coming up short in the playoffs like this, it hurts. No one wants to leave like this." — captain Ryan Getzlaf.
"We're human, so we're going to think back to things we could've done differently in some of these games. Proud of our team; not many people expected things from us this year and we showed we can play with the best. We'll take the experience of this loss and try to be better next year." — defenseman Cam Fowler.
"It's as disappointing as it can be losing the seventh game, but I also look at the future of this organization and it's strong." — Coach Bruce Boudreau.
Ducks General Manager Bob Murray, in a nod to dubious timing, was named one of three finalists for general manager of the year Monday. The Ducks finished 30-12-6 in this lockout-shortened season, swept three games from top-seeded Chicago, won 13 consecutive home games at one point and netted 15 comeback victories.
Deficits became more difficult to overcome as the season progressed, however. The Ducks were 5-8-2 from March 22 to April 19 and failed to recover from a 3-1 hole Sunday with 6 minutes 15 seconds left in the second period.
"That's been our problem all year," veteran wing Teemu Selanne said of the slow starts. "If you could fix that one problem, it'd be a totally different case. … We deserved better than this."
The fatigue of the compressed season was compounded by the back-and-forth travel to Detroit in a series that included four overtimes.
"We played a lot of hockey, but every team had to do it," first-line wing Corey Perry said.
Perry's scoring touch — 15 goals, 21 assists — evaporated in the playoffs as he failed to score a goal despite 24 shots against Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard.
"It's frustrating I didn't get the job done," Perry said. "I'll take this, put it in the back of my head and use it again. He made some big saves at crucial times. You thought the puck would go in, all of a sudden you look again and it's in his glove or his leg's kicking it out."
Boudreau said he's optimistic about 2013-14. Getzlaf and Perry will start their combined $135-million, eight-year commitments to the team. Youngsters Kyle Palmieri, Nick Bonino and Emerson Etem (three playoff goals apiece) will return a year better. And goalies Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth can renew their season-long match of one-upmanship in the net.
The most immediately pressing subject is whether Selanne, 42, will end his career with 675 goals.
"He's been here since day one for me and been a big inspiration for me," Perry said. "I hope it's not his last one."
"I'm not going to think about this question right away," Selanne said after Sunday's game. "If I had the feeling, I would tell you, but that's not the case, so let's see.
"If it was a bad team that didn't have a chance, that would be an easy decision. The core of what we have here is unbelievable, especially the young guys, the way they stepped it up. I'm so proud of those guys. Whatever happens here, this franchise has a proud future."
Players conduct their exit interviews with Boudreau on Tuesday.