Phaneuf and the Leafs suffered a 4-3 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the season finale. Toronto finished the season with a 30-44-8 record — including a final 51-game stretch that included only 11 victories.
"It was a lot of different emotions," said Phaneuf, who recorded his 400th career point in the loss. "To be honest with you, it didn't really sink in until I was on the way to the rink. It's tough when you finish the season. You know there's going to be change.
"You look at how we played, where we were coming into these last few games, it's not a spot you want to be in as a player or as a team. It's a tough game to play when you're that far out."
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who stopped 30 shots in the loss, said there was a different vibe in the room prior to puck drop.
"You could feel it before the game, I think," said Bernier, who is set to become a restricted free agent. "Guys were kind of upset and nervous at the same time. It (was) the last time we're going to play as a group."
Bernier, who finished the season with a 21-28-7 in 58 appearances, shouldered some of the blame for the team's failures down the stretch.
"What I'll remember is we got hurt a little bit after Christmas and we couldn't really put it together," he said. "At some times we had tough time scoring goals.
"I had to be better at some points. That's my job. Even if we score one, I've got to find a way to not let anything in."
Bernier said he's received an invite from Hockey Canada to represent the country at the upcoming World Hockey Championship in the Czech Republic, but has yet to make a decision.
The Leafs are scheduled to have their exit meetings and one final meeting with the media on Monday afternoon, although interim head coach Peter Horachek is unsure if he'll be a part of the day's activities.
The 58-year-old took over the coaching duties after Randy Carlyle was fired on Jan. 6 and guided the Leafs to a 9-28-5 record.
Horachek pointed to a lack of response from his players as the reason for the team's failures. When asked why, he was to the point.
"Individuals resist change," he said. "That's the best way I think I can say that. People don't want to change. They want to keep it in the comfort level where they are."
Horachek was especially disappointed in the fact there was no response prior to the trading of Mike Santorelli, Cody Franson and Daniel Winnik in February.
"You want to see more success obviously," Horachek said. "If you don't get it, you have to keep trying in different directions and different manners of motivation. As the stretch went down, you've got to remember, we traded away quite a few guys.
"Before (the trades) you wished there had been a better response in how we were playing and more winning situations."
Saturday night also marked the final game for Colton Orr and, possibly, Eric Brewer in a Leafs uniform. Brewer, a pending unrestricted free agent, was injured in a collision with Habs' defenceman Alexei Emelin in the second period and did not return.
Orr played parts of six seasons with the Leafs. The 33-year-old spent all of the 2014-15 season with the American Hockey League's Toronto Marlies before being recalled for Saturday's game.
"He's been a great teammate of mine for a lot years here," said Phaneuf, who noted Orr's father and wife were sitting behind the team's bench. "I thought it was great for him to be able to play in this last game. He obviously didn't have the year that he would've liked to or been where he wanted to be at, but he's been a professional and I was just really happy to see him."