These are the most fun days to be a Detroit Red Wings fan

The Stanley Cup years were great, but this is the most fun time to be a fan of the Detroit Red Wings.
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“Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” ― Ferris Bueller.

It has been a minute. Or, more accurately, about 7,233,120 minutes since the Red Wings last lifted the Stanley Cup. Old Wings’ fans remember the cup years as the best days of being a Red Wings’ fan. And those were good days. But right now, maybe a more fun time to be a fan of Detroit hockey.

Discussing defensive shortcomings, unsustainable shooting percentage, lack of goaltender depth, not enough high-end offensive talent, and whether the rebuild is moving toward a cup or perennial mediocrity are staples of Red Wing podcasters and commentators. These are issues, for sure, but too many fans and experts are missing the most important part of fandom: the fun.

It's a fun time to be a fan of the Detroit Red Wings

This year has seen improbable comebacks, Patrick Kane and showtime, Jake Walman and The Griddy, Moritz Seider’s giant goal smiles, Alex Lyon’s unblinking interviews, Ben Chiarot being a menace, Dylan Larkin’s light media presence after big wins, and a rise up the standings. We have even seen Michael Rasmussen smile. The Little Caesar’s Arena is filling the upper bowl and getting loud. The great goal horn, Eminem, goalie hugs, saluting the fans at center ice, and Journey. This team seems to be heading for the playoffs. This, right now, is the fun.

The six Stanley Cup Finals and four Cup raisings from 1995 to 2008 were complete joys to watch. The pre-salary cap Red Wings were a machine with deep pockets. The team remained excellent after the salary cap as well. They were a contender for nearly 15 years. Injuries, being goalied, bad luck, and some truly great opposition teams led to some losses, but the team was brilliant. Fans began to treat the winning as a birthright, and we all became a little entitled.

The Detroit Red Wings had two winning seasons from 1970-1971 to 1991-1992. Incredible talents such as Mickey Redmond, Marcel Dionne, Dale McCourt, and Reed Larson never had a sniff of a deep playoff run in Detroit. This was the Dead Things era, with little evidence that management was even trying to build a quality team. There was the assumption that Steve Yzerman would be another great player and captain who would never lift the cup. Then, the 1989 draft brought Lidstrom, Federov, Konstantinov, and Drake to the team. As this core developed, the team started winning and became fun to watch. The early 1990s Red Wings were not perfect, but there was buzz. There was optimism, hope, and energy not seen in Detroit since the 1950s. The rise and run-up to the cup years was more fun than fans should be allowed to have.

That is where these Red Wings are right now. This is not going to be the best Wings team. The team will improve each year for a long time. Sebastian Cossa, Simon Edvinsson, Nate Danielson, Axel Sandin-Pellika, Carter Mazur, Marco Kasper, Trey Augustine, and others are on the way.

Detroit is now a desirable destination for free agents, the best arena in the league is now alive and loud, young players are developing well, and the salary cap is being managed wisely. They will enter their cup-contending window in about three years. But the next few years may be the most fun times to be a fan—possibility, rising out of the darkness with hope and a glimpse into the future. The most fun is the realistic idea that Dylan Larkin is likelier to have a legacy closer to Steve Yzerman than the great players of the Dead Things era. Let’s not take it for granted. These are fun times.