Thanks for a Great Season, Red Wings

Gregory Shamus

Hey folks. In the wake of the Wings' elimination, we're going to take a bit of time to just kind of enjoy watching hockey. We'll hit the postmortem in due time, but for right now, we all wanted to say a little something. Here goes:

Graham:

This season was probably my favourite out of all the non-Cup years that I've been a fan. It was a different experience cheering for an underdog that no one outside Detroit believed in, but one that I found enjoyable because I could focus on watching them compete and grow as a team without the weight of unreasonable expectations. We're about to enter a new era of Red Wing hockey as this team is turned over to the new generation, and that's both exciting and scary at the same time because of the potential and uncertainty that exists.

The disappointment of not being able to close out the Blackhawks will linger for a while, but it won't last as long as in previous years when I felt the Wings underachieved. This was probably as far as the Wings could have gotten based on their talent and experience, maybe even a little further, and it gives me enormous pride to know the Wings gave it all they had and left it all out on the ice. For the first time in a long time I won't wonder "what if?" over the entire summer.

This community has been a big part of my life for the last 3 years and continues to be a source of inspiration for me. I feel like we've become our own little family, complete with the warts that accompany being around so many people for so long. We may have our disagreements, but we band together when we have to because we have the knowledge that we all cheer for an amazing hockey franchise. Being a part of this group has made me a better hockey fan and I thank each and every one of you for reading, commenting, and making this a fun place to spend time.

Christian:

This wasn't supposed to happen. We weren't supposed to make the playoffs. We weren't supposed to beat the Ducks. We weren't supposed to take the Blackhawks to 7 games. Yet we did.

I've never been so proud of this team and I can't wait for an exciting season next year. Go Wings! This season was a success. Be proud of that.

Jeff:

Thank you to everyone: The Red Wings, our readers, Graham, hell, even J.J.

It's been one hell of a busy year. The lack of awesome UFAs sucked. The lockout sucked. The losing sucked. But at the end of the day it feels like such a rewarding season. Cup or bust should always be this franchises motto, but every now and then it's necessary to step back and look at what this team accomplished. The Red Wings took the 2 best teams (based on record) in the superior Western Conference to 7 games. For a team that barely made the postseason... that counts as a success.

Some of us begged for the kids to play and we finally got that this season. The value of the 14 playoff games is immeasureable. Guys like Gustav Nyquist, Brendan Smith and Joakim Andersson are only going to get better. Hopefully management sees what the youth was able to do and young guys start creeping into the lineup even sooner in years to come.

Bottom line, it was one hell of a run. Watching hockey with all of our WIIM writers and readers made the experience so much better. I can't wait for next season to top it all.

Let's Go Red Wings.

J.J.

Believe it or not, this isn't the first time I've been proud of the team after the playoffs when they didn't win a cup... it's just that this is the first time in a long while that it's happened. Throughout the lockout when I wasn't sure I liked the league enough to keep following the sport, I sometimes wavered on whether I wanted to bother with an emotional investment in the team.

I'm so incredibly glad I did. I'm not just proud of the Wings, I'm proud of the fans we had around all season. This was a truly enjoyable time. Thank you all for what you make WIIM to be.

Tyler:

Thank you to WIIM for bringing me aboard this season and to the readers who said nice things to me along the way. My general interest in writing has been rejuvenated thanks to you guys, and I appreciate that because writing down thoughts during a game on used napkins just doesn't compare.

I failed in not getting my hopes up. We were too close. Three cracks at defeating the mighty Blackhawks; one goal away from the conference finals. No matter how Big Picture you look at it, it's still a massive disappointment that there will be no Red Wings hockey for four months, and that's an adjustment I hate making every year.

Still, really, really proud of that group we just watched. Almost wish they read this so that I could tell them (but not completely because Gustavsson might kill himself if he reads these archives and I don't want that blood on my hands.)

Michelle:

I don’t know what to say yet….I’m still at a loss as to how to convey all the things I’m feeling right now. I’m proud, proud of this team for taking all the crap they were handed this season (Losing Lidstrom, losing Stuart, all the injuries, all the call ups, no training camp, long off season etc etc etc) and instead of capitulating, they worked harder, let their character shine, and grew to be something beautiful. Four months ago, this was a team with no identity, and no expectations, who wandering through games looking lost. It was the most tribulation I’ve personally known as a hockey fan, and there were days I was afraid the whole fan base might tear each other apart in cannibalistic fashion.

We knew there was something more, something better, just waiting to emerge, but the process was painful. This turned out to be the season that we needed, but no one wanted. We saw growth from players who wouldn’t have had much playing time were it not for the injury plague, the emergence of players who never would have played in the NHL yet, and what I believe has been a rejuvenation of the coaching staff and Wings management.

If I asked each of you which Red Wings team was your favorite, you’d probably have an answer that quickly came to mind. It would probably be a roster that won you over, blew your mind, or wowed your pants off. I loved the Red Wings from the moment I first saw them, it was love at first sight. Then I met this team. At first they weren’t easy to look at, they didn’t ooze magnificence, and they weren’t the glamorous choice. It was painful sometimes in the beginning, but there was something about this team; something that kept me coming back for more.

Holland told us not to expect a 22nd consecutive playoff berth, Babcock told us he didn’t know if the team would make the playoffs, almost every sports writer wrote the Wings off early in the season, expecting them to finish near the bottom of the west. Jimmy Howard wasn’t a great goalie they said, the defense was going to implode without Nick and Stuie they said, and we didn’t get a big name top 6 forward in the offseason. Everyone who hated the Wings, or who resented them for being so great for so long, was foaming at the mouth. This was finally going to be the year the Wings missed the playoffs, they would finally be humbled, humiliated and brought down to everyone else’s level; it became almost masturbatory.

How did this team respond to having most of the odds stacked against them? Oh, you know, nothing….nothing except earn their 22nd consecutive playoff appearance, beating the #2 team in NHL in seven games, and then taking the #1 team to overtime in game 7 in the conference quarterfinals. PLUS they did all that (and so much more) with the most man games lost to injury, playing 9 different rookies, riding a single goaltender for 90% of the season, with no Lidstrom, no Stuart, and a pretty barebones defense and lackluster offense.

Mike Babcock said that when a player puts on the Wings sweater, they have an obligation to those the great players who have worn it before them; that they have an obligation, not to win like a Red Wing, but to compete like a Red Wing. That’s exactly what this team did; they never gave up, never made excuses, never quit, never stopped competing, trying, working, or growing. When I look back at the team that started this season, and the team that finished it, I am in awe of the progress they made. The character of the players of this team, on MY team, makes me proud to be a Wings fan.

I am proud to stand by this team and say yes, yes they are my team, I’m proud of them, and I’m proud to be associated with them. "The test of success is not what you do when you are on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit the bottom." This season was unequivocally a success. The Wings did more than 27 other NHL teams, many of which had more to work with and far less adversity. The growth and progress we've seen this season is amazing, and the experience our rookies have gleaned will be invaluable in their continued progress.

The future of the Detroit Red Wings is upon us, and I hope you brought your shades, because it’s a very bright future. I’ll wrap up with one final thought. Over the last few weeks I've gotten comments from both friends and strangers about how the Wings have been terrible this year, surprise that they’re in the playoffs, or other comments that tell me they haven’t been following the team. There’s so much more to the team and the game, then just occasionally watching, checking the box score, or reading the sports section. Those people who are casual fans, or who didn't go through the ups and downs of every game, don’t know and appreciate what we've been through this year. They don’t understand the bond I have with this team, nor the emotional roller-coaster it’s been.

Hockey isn't just a sport for me, it’s a lifestyle, an obsession, a way of life, and not everyone can understand or appreciate that. That’s where all of you come in. WiiM is an amazing community, and I’m honored to be a part of it. I love having a place to discuss hockey and the Wings with other fans that are as immersed in the game and obsessed with the Wings as I am. There’s a sense of camaraderie here that I don’t see anywhere else, the content quality on this blog is superb, and the discussions are thought provoking and often laughter inducing. Thank you to everyone who contributes here, J.J., Graham, Jeff, Tyler, Christian, and to all of you wonderful people who comment and make me feel at home. I love you all and I can’t wait to see what next season brings.

There an empty space in my chest…It’s that feeling of being lost, or forgetting why you walked into a room so you just sort of stand there and look around, hoping the meaning and purpose comes back. That’s not all there is, I feel immense pride in my team, but the sadness and emptiness are, for me, a necessary part of the grieving process. They’ll soon wane and fully give way to the satisfaction of what this team did, and who they’ve become. But for right now, in this snapshot of a moment in time, the stunning affect of an abrupt end to something that’s such a huge part of my life, leaves a void that takes time to come to terms with. It’s a part of the process, and each year, unless we win the Cup, it’s going to happen. Some people are able to move on right away, moving on to talking about next season, rosterbation, player evaluations etc… and if that works for you, then I’m glad. That’s not how I roll though. For me, doing that feels like losing your dog, and 5 minutes later someone brings a new puppy home and acts like it replaces your best friend you just lost. I know that may sound like an extreme example, but that’s how it feels. The sadness will pass, but until it does, it still stings.

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