Detroit Red Wings: Why Darren Helm is the Future of the Franchise

Mike SuggsContributor IMarch 14, 2011

DETROIT,MI - OCTOBER 30:  Darren Helm #43 of the Detroit Red Wings skates in a game against the Nashville Predators on October 30,2010 at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit , Michigan. The Wings defeated the Predators 5-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

About two months ago, I wrote an article about the 10 best prospects in the Red Wings system, but recent events have inspired me to focus on a a player who has already started making a name for himself in the Motor City.  

From the moment he took the ice as a member of the Red Wings, one could tell that Darren Helm had potential.

He first made his presence felt during the 2008 and 2009 playoffs, where he made a habit of scoring clutch goals.

In fact, during his first two call-up stints in Detroit, he played more games during the playoffs than he did during the regular season. He also owns the unique distinction of having scored six goals in the playoffs before scoring one in the regular season.  

With Helm, the upside is obvious: He has lightning quick speed and he brings a ton of energy to every single shift. Every time he is on the ice, he gives 110 percent and never quits on a play. He is also one of the team's top penalty killers and, as such, is a threat in shorthanded situations.   

As most people know, the Red Wings like to ease their prospects into the NHL, especially during their first couple of years in the league. For the most part, that means they play on the third and fourth lines.

While Helm has been the team's fourth-line center for his first two years, those two years have been anything but an "easing" experience.  

Last year was his first full year and he was a part of the decimated "Detroit Griffins" team that was spliced together due to injuries. It became clear that Helm would play a bigger role than expected when the season started.

As questions arose about whether or not the Wings would even make the playoffs last year, Helm emerged as one of the most reliable players on the team. 

He got increased ice time due to all the injuries and he did not disappoint. Last year, he contributed 11 goals and 13 assists for 24 points in 75 games, which is more than anyone expected him to score.

The surprising uptick in offense, coupled with his style of play, quickly endeared him to Red Wings nation.  

Helm is an exciting player to watch because something good always seems to happen when he gets the puck. His speed usually translates into at least one breakaway per game for him and, despite his smaller stature, he isn't afraid to throw his weight around and play gritty. 

In fact, during the 2009 playoffs, he lead the team in hits with 118. That trend continued all of last season, as he again lead the team with 187 hits during the regular season.  

With a full season under his belt, Helm was poised to improve even more this year, and he has done just that.

So far this year, he has set new career highs in assists (19), points (30) and he has tied his high of 11 goals—and he did all this in six less games than last year. 

I tend to think plus-minus is a somewhat overrated statistic, but it also looks good to see his minus-2 from last year improved to a plus-10.

What is most encouraging about his play this year is that he is learning to have more patience with puck. He creates a lot of scoring opportunities, but last year, he was rushing his shots.

It now appears that he is gaining more knowledge of his space and it has started paying dividends.  

With his speed, tenacity and the continued emergence of his finishing ability, Helm could wind up being a solid 20 goal guy (25 on a good year) for the Wings in the future, and one of those "glue" guys that are key to winning championships. 

Mike Babcock often praises Helm as being perhaps the most consistent player on the team alongside the likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom. After watching what he can do with somewhat limited ice time, it's hard to argue with that sentiment.

I think it's safe to say Ken Holland won't be letting go of this guy any time soon.  

His best performance in my mind was Game 5 of the 2009 Western Conference Finals, and a short video of it is supplied above in the article.

He had one of the best individual penalty kills I've ever seen and to top it off, he scored the game winning goal in overtime to send the Wings to their second consecutive finals.


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