Grand Rapids Griffins: Measuring a year (Detroit Red Wings AHL affiliate)

There are many ways we might measure a year, so let’s reflect on the Grand Rapids Griffins, the AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, to see how far they have come.
Gregory Shamus/GettyImages

My whole life, I have always stated that I hate musicals. They’re just not my thing.

Something about a whole group of supposed random people knowing the same lyrics and dance moves is something that my brain can’t get behind.

Yet, some of my favorite music is derived from musicals. From Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell, which was meant to be a musical, to Rent, I can’t help it. 

One of my all-time favorite songs is “Seasons of Love” from Rent. It’s stimulating, inspiring, and perplexing all at the same time. The main tagline of the song is, “How do you measure, measure a year…” Persisting throughout the song are different options of how one might measure a year.

When I read this post from the Hockeytown West Podcast (@HockeyTownWpod), it reminded me of this song:

My, what a difference a year makes for the Grand Rapids Griffins, the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings?

As Hockeytown West Podcast points out, the Grand Rapids Griffins improved drastically in a year. Numbers-wise, it’s night and day. This change is a result of countless things. I want to share one of my favorite ways the Grand Rapids Griffins have improved outside of the numbers and standings alone.

Gelling as a team

When head coach Dan Watson took over the Grand Rapids Griffins, his first goal didn’t include winning. Honestly, his goal didn’t include much in terms of on-ice performance; rather, it included building a team.

This concept might seem simple in concept, even elementary. If you were able to catch any of the Grand Rapids Griffins games in recent memory, especially last season, it might not have seemed so easy.

I like to use Simon Edvinsson as an example. He’s certainly among the top three prospects in the Detroit Red Wings organization. Edvinsson possesses every tool a defenseman yearns for, and he has those tools in spades. 

For the first half of the 2022-23 season,  Edvinsson struggled to adjust. There were times Edvinsson was facing the wrong way on the ice, back to the play as if he had no clue what was happening. The scariest part, he wasn’t alone in this foreign land.

These Grand Rapids Griffins weren’t the ones I remember watching years prior. I’ll be honest: I hadn’t followed the Grand Rapids Griffins as much as I would have liked in the previous two to three seasons. Maybe it was a gradual downhill slope the team rode together, but it was wild to see.

In my mind, the 2022-23 Grand Rapids Griffins roster was one of the strongest they had iced in a long time. With the likes of Edvinsson, Pontus Andreasson, and Albert Johansson joining the mix, I thought the Grand Rapids Griffins were Calder Cup contenders beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Shuttering in the stands, all I could do was thank my lucky stars that Johansson had some semblance of what he should have been doing before he was injured. Then, there wasn’t much joy. Watching guys like Andreasson not get a fair shake and the team play so poorly in fundamentals was disheartening. 

From poor systems to poor systems' implementation, from not playing for each other to everything in between, the Grand Rapids Griffins couldn’t get it together.

To make a short story long, they were broken.

Somehow, Dan Watson and his staff changed the team in no time flat. Okay, the opening weekend was stellar, but then the Grand Rapids Griffins slid, and I feared it would be a 2022-23 repeat. 

I’m not sure if it was with the number of new players, the idea that a specific player like Dominik Shine should have been named captain instead of newly added Josiah Didier, or just a ton of change in a short period, there were problems. 

However, both the Grand Rapids Griffins coaching staff and players overcame their differences and challenges. I’m happy to report that they are playing to their identity as a team and aren’t afraid to stand up for each other, maybe sometimes a little too often, as Griffins Nest (@GrGriffinsNest) shares:

It’s night and day from last season. As a fan of both the Detroit Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins, I couldn’t be happier or ask more from the latter. Their growth as a team and their ability to gel is the way I measure their season.