The excitement has been tempered over the last handful of years. The feeling this time around is different.

Ever since the conclusion of a 25 year run of qualifying for the postseason, and the subtle but not-so subtle shift towards a rebuild begun, the same old clichés of what to expect heading into October each year almost sounded like a broken record.

“We just need to see growth from the young players” and “Player X is bound to breakout” was the best line of reasoning for fans to not completely drop all hope and keep tuning in to a lackluster product.

Of course, as redundant as it has sounded for the last three years, there was some truth to it. Before Dylan Larkin became the player we know him as today, he had to develop into that player. Teams who are out of it by December need some sort of validation through a miserable season.

But the fact of the matter is that those “young players” are now in their primes. Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou are 25, Tyler Bertuzzi 24. Any more growth from Larkin at age 23 is gravy at this point.

Now that is not to say their development was disappointing, in fact, it was the complete opposite.

Larkin is a bonafide point per game center, and each of Athanasiou, Bertuzzi, and Mantha have a realistic shot at eclipsing the 20 goal mark. This core of players is obviously not the problem, rather, it is the depth that is handicapping them. Anchored down by some brutal contracts, it’s the previously mentioned names that will have to carry this team.

Some of the dark horses to make the roster may help fend off some of the internal frustration that comes with constant defeat, but as we saw in 2018-19, sporadic youth movements can’t keep the Red Wings Twitter mentions PG forever. Promising bubble prospects like Filip Zadina, Joseph Veleno, and Dennis Cholowski, among others, will all have growing pains, whether it be in the NHL or AHL. That is just the reality of icing a lineup of inexperienced players.

But as many have predicted, leaning on a select few players (none of which are among the class of superstars in the NHL) just cannot be sustainable, and leaves any thoughts of playoff contention seen as a hot take, at best.

Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi celebrate after scoring a goal against the New York Islanders. The Canadian forwards are both expected to be key contributors for the Red Wings this season. (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)

Ask the players how they feel, however, and hot takes be damned. These guys want to win. They might be a sub-par team on paper, But I’d be lying to you if I said the entire immediate outlook is bleak.

Every team has highs and lows, maybe the Wings find the right wave to ride for most of the season. Jimmy Howard will give them a chance every night. Last season, the Wings played the second most one goal games of any NHL team, per Hockey Reference, coming out on the wrong side of the majority of them. A few bounces go their way, and maybe things play out a little more favorably.

A similar attitude has been adopted by the fan-base, well, at least on the positive direction of the franchise, anyway.

This 2019-20 installment of the Red Wings has come with greater optimism and more leeway from the Detroit faithful, at least compared to recent memory. That sentiment is in large part due to the change of guard, with Steve Yzerman being instated as general manager. There is certainly a great amount of trust the fan-base has instilled in his decision-making. I don’t think there is any denying that the signings of Valtteri Filppula and Patrik Nemeth would have been condemned if orchestrated by former GM Ken Holland.

But that is to be expected. Yzerman’s track record in Tampa Bay (and fairly or unfairly, his hall-of-fame playing career in Detroit) has earned him that initial grace period.

Yet, the roster is what it is. Yzerman’s presence as of today won’t have much on ice impact, barring a trade. So how can the Wings grow in a positive manner this season? What questions will be answered? The days of NHL regulars developing is no longer good enough at this stage of the rebuild. Which is why the darkest days are (hopefully) over.

Well, I’d be looking at the coach for one, in what could be a crucial year for Jeff Blashill. Blashill’s reputation is divisive among fans, in the sense that one side believes his coaching style doesn’t equate to wins on the ice and successful player development, while the other side feels he wasn’t given much of a chance with the roster he had to work with. None of that really matters, though. If Yzerman’s vision isn’t carried out, there is always the chance he looks to find “his guy” to put behind the bench.

Jeff Blashill is entering his fifth season as Red Wings head coach. The club has qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs only once under his watch. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

Other areas of the organization will also leave a major mark on the immediate and distant future. The  team veterans, specifically, have something to prove. Can Frans Nielsen establish himself as a passable second line/third line center? Will Danny DeKeyser play as well as he did last year in a top pair role? Can Mike Green stay healthy?

Answers to those questions and many more will define the coming years at Little Caesars Arena. That’s just the ugly truth to all of this — many of these aging depth players are locked up for multiple years. The Wings will need to get everything they can out of this group, especially once they give raises to Athanasiou, Bertuzzi, and Mantha next offseason, and possibly go after a big-ticket unrestricted free agent.

So what should you expect from the 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings? More of the same, I guess?

There isn’t exactly a cookie cutter answer to this one, but much of the current situation resembles past ones. The key guys are still the key guys. The general consensus of their final placement in the standings is closer to the bottom then it is the top, but that won’t stop the players from being competitive.

But this time there is a difference. A new hope. The team hasn’t had this much momentum in a long time, and who would have guessed the front office would be the source.

Now it’s just a wait and see game.