Even after coach Scotty Bowman and goaltender Dominik Hasek retired, the Detroit Red Wings hoped to win a fourth NHL title in seven years.
That would have been the best run since Edmonton won five championships from 1984 to '90.
Instead, the Red Wings became the first reigning Stanley Cup champion to be swept in the first round of the playoffs since 1952, when the Toronto Maple Leafs were upset by Detroit.
The current Red Wings were ushered out of the postseason by the Mighty Ducks of Amaheim with a 3-2 overtime loss Wednesday night.
"It's almost like a waste of a year for us, the way we finished the season," defenseman Chris Chelios said. "It's a shame."
Before Game 4, Curtis Joseph -- the 14-year veteran who replaced Hasek -- said he would accept the blame if Detroit lost.
He might get his share. Joseph allowed 10 goals on 120 shots in the series. Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, playing in the postseason for the first time, allowed only six goals on 171 shots.
Red Wings forward Darren McCarty defended Joseph.
"We didn't get it done for him," McCarty said. "He played great. In Detroit, the toughest jobs are goaltender for the Wings and quarterback for the Lions. That's the way it is."
Another tough job: succeeding Hall of Famer Bowman as coach of the Red Wings. That's what 14-year assistant Dave Lewis was asked to do. Some will wonder whether Bowman would have been able to make enough adjustments to make a difference against the Mighty Ducks.
Lewis knew he would face such second-guessing.
"I don't know what I would have done differently," Lewis said. "You try to do things to get performance and production and try to put guys in situations where they'd be successful. You're hoping the work level you put into it matches [Anaheim's] and your talent kicks in, and that didn't seem to happen.
"I'm extremely disappointed, not so much for myself but for the team. I feel empty. I guess 'numb' would be a good word. I really can't believe it."
As many stars as Detroit has, few played particularly well against Anaheim. Chelios didn't register a point. Brett Hull, Nicklas Lidstrom and Steve Yzerman did not score. Sergei Fedorov didn't have a goal until he forced overtime with 2 minutes 15 seconds left in Game 4.
"You have to count on everybody, and everybody wasn't as good as I thought they could be," Lewis said.