It would have been easy for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman to label this season a success. Falling one game short of the Stanley Cup final is especially notable given the team missed the playoffs the previous three seasons.
But Yzerman said when he was hired that building the organization was a long-term project, and he is sticking to it.
"I'm going to look back three, four, five years from now and assess whether I think we, as an organization, have done a real good job," he said. "Obviously, we're thrilled in Year 1 to be where we are, but again, I want to look back in a few years and say, 'You know what? We've done a real good job. Our team is where we want it to be.'
"We're enjoying this, but we recognize we still have a lot of work to do."
That gets under way almost immediately. Yzerman has several personnel decisions to make, such as whether to sign potential unrestricted free agents including goaltenders Dwayne Roloson and Mike Smith; forwards Simon Gagne, Sean Bergenheim and Adam Hall; and defensemen Eric Brewer, Marc-Andre Bergeron and Randy Jones.
Just as important, though, is the June draft.
"If we're going to be a playoff team, you're not going to be drafting first or second, so the challenge is to draft well," Yzerman said. "We'll do our best to be very selective and be very careful in the free agents we pursue and hope we can sign free agents to contracts that will help us improve the team but keep players here. Our challenge is to build on this year."
OUTSIDE VIEW: Bruins RW Mark Recchi commended the Lightning for how far it has come and said he saw the team's potential while playing with Tampa Bay in 2008-09 before he was traded to Boston for D Matt Lashoff and F Martins Karsums.
The key to improvement, he said, was Jeff Vinik's purchase of the team and the hiring of Yzerman.
"Ownership really settled things down," said Recchi, who played under former owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie. "And when you get a guy like Steve Yzerman coming, he's been really the whole key to the cog. He settled things down and made some tremendous moves in the offseason to make this team where it's at and get them into this position."
Recchi also praised coach Guy Boucher, though he said he believed the coach he played for in Tampa, Rick Tocchet, "did a great job under the circumstances when he was there."
5 ON 5: Not only did neither the Lightning nor the Bruins have a power play in Friday's Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final, referees Stephen Walkom and Dan O'Halloran did not call a penalty.
Considering the Lightning's power play ran at 25.4 percent efficiency in the postseason and the Bruins were at 8.2 percent, the no-calls would seem to have benefited Boston.
Even so, Boucher said, "You know what? I can't think of any moment I felt there should have been a power play on either side. That's credit to both teams' discipline and attention to details."
BEST FANS: C Steven Stamkos posted on his Twitter account a thank-you to Tampa Bay's fans for their support "throughout the season and especially in the playoffs."
And especially during Game 6 against the Bruins at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"It was unbelievable," he said Friday about the howling sellout crowd of 21,426. "Our fans have been amazing. I've never experienced anything like that in my career."
Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.