The beginning of Darren Helm's career in Hockeytown would have been satisfactory for most up-and-coming players.
Helm has already won a Stanley Cup with Detroit (2008) and got to within a game of winning his second in 2009. In fact, he scored an overtime goal in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals against Chicago that forever made him a hometown hero in Hockeytown.
Not to mention that Helm also has a Gold Medal from the 2007 World Junior Championships and an appearance in the CHL Memorial Cup as a member of the Medicine Hat Tigers.
Back in those days, Helm was a point-per-game threat to the opposition every night in Junior Hockey. His last two seasons in Medicine Hat saw him put up 79 and 64 points, respectively (nhl.com).
Helm was expected to become a high-impact player after landing in Grand Rapids in the 2007-08 season. Yet, Helm utilized his best gifts—his speed and grit—to become a third-line checker who uses blazing speed to compensate for his smaller frame.
Since he has embraced this new role, his production in the general offensive stat sheets has taken a dip. But playing as a third-liner, his points have come in limited playing time.
The overall problem, however, might be that Helm doesn't finish on some plays where he darts down the ice after a perfect outlet pass. It's why Helm only managed to put up 26 points in 68 games during 2011-12 and only 83 points in his entire 248-game career (nhl.com).
This leaves fans who watch the Red Wings wanting to see more out of Helm on the scoresheet.
The hope will be that he has the time to gain more ice time and be placed in a scoring role. This past offseason saw him ink a four-year deal that is worth $8.5 million.
Head coach Mike Babcock also used his third line frequently at points during the regular season to give them an extra punch. The H-A-M line (Helm-Justin Abdelkader-Drew Miller) was one of the best line combinations that worked for Babcock.
The Red Wings' financial situation might allow Helm to step into a larger role. Veterans like Danny Cleary and Valtteri Filppula are unrestricted free agents going into 2012-13. Todd Bertuzzi, Patrick Eaves, Mikael Samuelsson and Cory Emmerton are all free agents after the 2013-14 season, according to Capgeek.
The fact that Helm has only played full-time in three seasons will also allow him to get more playing time under Babcock.
There is still a lot to expect from Darren Helm as he reaches the prime of his career. He has already accomplished winning a Stanley Cup in his short tenure; a nomination for the Selke Trophy could also be imminent sooner than later.
Finally, Helm will keep using that speed to create memorable breakaway goals and just become a pest.
That's not a bad proposition for a player widely considered to be a long shot to ever make the NHL.
Follow Garrett Kolodziej on Twitter @gkolodziej248 for more information on the Red Wings, NHL, Hockey Talk, and much more.
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