On Hope, Excitement, and Lack Thereof

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It’s the start of a new season and I want to have hope and excitement for the Detroit Red Wings.  I’m going to be a downer, though.

As a fan, I’m okay with losing.  More than I used to be, at least.  You can’t win all the time.  The team’s 25-year playoff run was always going to come at a cost.  The rebuild that began in 2017 was inevitable.

I can tolerate losing if it feels like there’s a purpose, a silver lining, hope that things will get better, that the losing will lead to something to get excited about in the future.

Early in the rebuild, there was hope for the future in the form of previously-drafted Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Evgeny Svechnikov, and Tyler Bertuzzi.  The first draft class of the rebuild, in 2017, didn’t really add much flash but then 2018 brought Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno, players the fans supposedly could get excited about.

In 2019, then-GM Ken Holland was replaced by Steve Yzerman and the Wings seemingly went off the board to pick Moritz Seider at sixth overall, but the pick was lauded after the fact so there was reason to be excited.  The next year, the Wings dropped in the draft lottery again but still got Lucas Raymond, who had high expectations and lived up to them by jumping to the NHL roster a year later.

And 2021 sixth-overall pick Simon Edvinsson debuted with Detroit at the end of last season, as did 2022 eighth-overall pick Marco Kasper.

Today, Edvinsson and Kasper are with the Grand Rapids Griffins, along with 2022 fourth-rounder Amadeus Lombardi and 2021 first-rounder Sebastian Cossa and 2020 second-rounders William Wallinder and Cross Hanas and 2020 third-rounder Eemil Viro and 2019 second rounders Antti Tuomisto and Albert Johansson and 2019 sixth-rounder Elmer Soderblom and 2018 second-rounders Jonatan Berggren and Jared McIsaac.

Seven years into the rebuild, the only players on the Red Wings’ roster from those drafts are Michael Rasmussen, Veleno, Seider, and Raymond.

It feels a little bit like a bait and switch.  How many times through this rebuild have we been told that the only way to build a contender is through the draft?  Seven years in, we’re still seeing the Red Wings to send out a lineup very much not built through the draft.

You can argue that it’s not fair to include the most recent drafts.  You can point out that 2018 third-rounder Alec Regula is in the NHL, just now with Boston.  Or that Zadina is in the NHL with San Jose.  Or that 2017 second-rounder Gustav Lindstrom (now with Laval of the AHL) became Jeff Petry via trade.  I’m not here to say whether the Wings have drafted well or whether they’ve traded well.  I’m not looking at “the Yzerplan” as a whole.

I’m talking about hope and excitement for now and the future.

Seven years into the rebuild, sixty-one draft picks, and the Red Wings roster is largely made up of veteran free agent signings, with a couple trade acquisitions sprinkled in for good measure.

I can look at that Grand Rapids roster – and rosters across the junior and European leagues – and see that there might be something there.  There might be something to be excited about in the future.

I can also look back at some seemingly-stacked Griffins lineups that looked like they were something to be excited about but didn’t lead to anything at the NHL level.  I remember when Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet and Adam Almqvist were supposed to be the blueline of the future.  I remember waiting for Teemu Pulkkinen and Tomas Jurco to just pull their games together.  And the top of the Griffins’ lineup being Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, who ended up as completely serviceable players but nothing you’d build an NHL contender around.

So I want to have hope and excitement for the Red Wings and I can see how there might be hope and excitement just around the corner.  It’s also been seven years.  Seven years and so much of that supposed hope is still just around the corner.  Seven years and it’s not here yet and I can see how it’s possible that none of that apparent excitement in GR even makes it to the NHL level.

http://www.detroithockey.net

Clark founded the site that would become DetroitHockey.Net in September of 1996. He continues to write for the site and executes the site's design and development, as well as that of DH.N's sibling site, FantasyHockeySim.com.

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