It’s been real. It’s been fun. But has it been real fun?

Winging It In Motown

Hey everybody.

It’s been a while. I know I haven’t written anything in a few weeks, and my writing has been sporadic over the last few months, but I saw Sara’s goodbye post and felt that I needed to do the same. Closing this chapter of my writing career isn’t easy. I came to WIIM in early 2021 after what some may consider a pretty tumultuous hockey writing career. I bounced around a handful of publications and communities, writing wherever I could. But it wasn’t until I joined WIIM that I realized this kind of gig was more than just a Slack channel and a few stray messages.

It’s a community. A place that will let you know they love you just as soon as they let you have it on a take they don’t like. I’ve come to appreciate every single voice on here, positive or otherwise, because this community wouldn’t have been the same without you. I’ll genuinely miss all of you. You helped me to gain confidence as both a writer and a human being and I won’t forget the support you’ve given me along the way.

Before I get too sappy, I want to give a few quick thank you’s to some of my fellow writers:

  • Sara: Your humor is irreplaceable. You are the bedrock of the Red Wings meme community and I hope you know how much we all appreciate you for the things you do.
  • Jeff M.: You’re going places, my friend. You’ve got a lot of potential as a writer and a person and I hope that you’re able to further blossom into the writer I’m proud to have worked with.
  • Kyle: You’ve always been one of the most supportive people I’ve met while writing. You go out of your way to help newcomers and seasoned vets and I think that makes you a great leader.
  • Riley: You’re as sweet as you are talented. Your voice is one-of-a-kind and I cannot emphasize enough how great of a human being you are in every aspect.
  • J.J.: I can confidently say that I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without your guidance. You’ve held this whole thing together for years and I genuinely cannot stress enough how much of a pillar you’ve been for this community and writers of all walks. I hope you enjoy “retirement”!

Before I go, I thought I’d share a few closing thoughts on our favorite team — and some reasons to feel optimistic.

To be honest, I don’t know.

The Red Wings have positioned themselves with a deep prospect pool, a handful of young players, and a few draft picks that could pan out into something special. But is it enough? Can this core — and the prospects still in development — make a push toward contention? The future seems more uncertain now than ever before. At least with the abysmal 2019-20 season, we could look forward to a high draft pick and a fresh start next season. But a lot of us really thought this team was ready to take the next step. The signings of guys like David Perron and Ben Chiarot should’ve been a sign the team was ready to take the next step, right?

Maybe I was delusional. Then again, a lot of us thought Steve Yzerman was making a horrible mistake drafting Moritz Seider — and look how that turned out. This team is still a long ways away from contending. But it looks like they’re slowly pulling things together. Seider and Raymond are back on track. Simon Edvinsson looks like the real deal. Jonatan Berggren is a bona fide top-six forward. There are still plenty of boxes to check, but, if you ever feel lost, take a look at that 19-20 roster again. Only five names remain on the roster (and I suspect at least two of them will be gone by next season): Gustav Lindstrom, Filip Zadina, Adam Erne, Robby Fabbri, and, of course, Dylan Larkin.

Sure, you can look at the team’s record and point totals and feel a sense of pessimism. But that doesn’t help anyone. What does help, however, are the following fun facts:

  • Marco Kasper is the youngest player to ever win the Austrian Player of the Year Award.
  • Amadeus Lombardi is setting records and is currently third in OHL scoring. Not bad for a 19 year old drafted in the fourth round.
  • Sebastian Cossa is on a 10-game winning streak (as of March 22nd) and has dominated the ECHL after a slow start.
  • Dmitri Buchelnikov looks like the real deal, scoring 12 points in 4 games in the MHL and 28 points in 35 games in the VHL. If he can make his way over to Detroit, he could be an incredibly promising forward.
  • Dylan Larkin is scoring near a point-per-game pace.

Well, that depends on how you view the team. If you think they’re just a few pieces away from contention, you can treat the extra draft capital as trade incentives or offer sheet pieces. After all, Elias Pettersson will need a new contract soon and, if the Canucks continue to be this mismanaged, you might be able to make something work. You can even go to Tankathon and sim the draft until it becomes the narrative you want. I got Detroit winning the lottery on my first sim today, so, clearly, this means the Wings will win the Bedard Sweepstakes.

If you think they’re still a ways away, however, I recommend researching the next few drafts. While it’d be nice to get a Bedard or a Matvei Michkov, we might need to start thinking of mid to late-round draft steals. After all, Yzerman was the one who drafted Brayden Point (third round), Nikita Kucherov (second round), and (I’m sorry everyone) Andrei Vasilevskiy (a draft pick acquired in exchange for…Kyle Quincey). Perennial contenders aren’t built overnight. Expecting a depleted prospect pool to turn it around in 2-3 years was always a very tall ask. Let’s let Stevie cook and see what he can put together.

A few final thoughts (and how to stay in touch!)

Watching bad teams can be an exercise in frustration. Bad losses, blowouts, and busts can put even the most optimistic of hockey fans in a sour mood. There’s something myself and many fans need to remember, however: it’s just a game. None of this is real. We’re watching men play a kid’s game. Ultimately, it is an entertaining product that we watch for fun. I’m guilty of this, myself. I put way too much of my emotional stock into this silly team and how they approach certain issues. It can bring moments of bliss and misery, positivity and pain.

What I’m trying to say in so many words is that you need to take care of yourself first and foremost. If you ever find yourself consumed by the doomerism that can envelop the hockey community, disconnect. Give yourself a break. The games will be there when you get back. You can always check the scores online. But don’t let it bleed into your everyday life.

My therapist told me about this concept called “positive framing”. In layman’s terms, it’s basically about finding the good in any situation. Bad blowout loss? One step closer to Bedard. Embarrassing blown lead? At least it’ll be a funny story later. Prospect didn’t quite pan out? Make a “Red Wings Legend” joke like we do so often with Jakub Kindl, Tomas Jurco, and so many other players that never quite reached that level.

Basically, I want you all to take care of yourselves. Because I care about you and I cannot understate how much your impact has meant to me. While WIIM may be dust in the wind soon, I want you to know that I’ve enjoyed the ride and that I hope I’ll see many of you around. If the opportunity presents itself, I’ll be writing for another platform eventually. But, until then, you can find me on my Twitter page (@RivardNHL) or on the funniest podcast in sports: 313 Hockey.

This isn’t a goodbye. This is an “I’ll see you around”.

It’s been real, it’s been fun, and, most importantly, it’s been real fun.

Take care!

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