Darren Helm used to be the ace in our back pocket. We’d say things like, “yeah, but imagine if Helmer was healthy, things would be different,” or “Helm could be the best third line centre in the league,” and we totally believed it then. This was after all, the man who put together THE SHIFT:
But our feelings about Helm are actually getting checked this year as he becomes a UFA and has the potential to walk this summer. In six seasons with the club, Helm’s best point total has been just 33. I get it, it’s not really his role and I agree fully with you there. But this is a guy who spent a lot of time alongside Pavel Datsyuk in the Wings top six while other more skilled forwards saw minimal ice time. Can the Wings afford another $4M+ contract for a guy who likely won’t break 40 points? Let’s look at the complete stats first:
This chart I think perfectly encapsulates the confusion in placing Darren Helm in the line up. All of his basic stats point to a third line player. This is why we’ve warmed up so much to the guy. When the Wings were a true offensive threat, Helm stayed on the third line and he did the dirty work. He killed penalties, he outworked everyone on the ice and occasionally he’d inject that fire in the team with a gritty goal. But then his possession numbers started to show maybe this was a guy ready for a top six role. But it’s interesting because he never put up insane numbers in junior (only one season above a point-per-game pace) and had even less of a scoring touch in the AHL. It makes you wonder, would the team maybe have benefited from Helm being an exceptional third liner instead of a mediocre second line guy? With the emergence of Athanasiou and Larkin as well as Nyqvist and Tatar coming off 28 and 29 goal seasons respectively do we not think maybe some of those guys could have produced more offence for the team in that role?
Like we’ve already touched on, nothing to wow you there. We can rejoice more over the fact he has 152 games played over the last two seasons than we can over any of the other stats there.
He’s a positive possession guy, that much we can praise. He plays the Detroit game and spending good time with a possession monster like Datsyuk will only help his numbers. Not much more to be desired here.
This one is pretty close. He’s at least stable here for the most part. He’s not generating a ton of scoring but he isn’t on the ice for a ton of goals either. Sadly, with the way he’s deployed he has to be generating more offence if this team hopes to be successful going forward. His shooting percentage is reasonable too so we can’t give him the benefit of not getting the bounces either.
This one is a little more bleak. With his speed and his quality of line mates he should be generating more chances on the ice. But as we see here, the team was actually getting more chances when Helm was on the bench. Not by a big margin but again, you fill a forward group with guys with numbers like these and you begin to understand why there were so many one-goal games for the team this year. The second line has been a struggle for the Red Wings for approaching a decade now, essentially since you couldn’t purchase a Robitaille or Hull anymore.
My actual prediction? Helm isn’t a Red Wing next year. He either takes a juicy $4M contract on a mediocre team that can use his speed or he takes a smaller deal on a perennial cup contender to fill some gaps in their depth. Wouldn’t surprise me to see Helm end up on a Philadelphia for the former or an LA/Anaheim for the latter.
Possibilities though? Holland is all about loyalty and Helm is one of only a small group left from the last glory days. Helm could score a deal in Detroit but it would only further clog their forward group and take a spot someone else on the roster could do more with.
Being healthy can’t be the only expectation we have for Darren Helm. I love the guy just as much as you, I seriously do, but these are the exact types of difficult decisions we have to get through if we want to break out of this dangerous slump we’re slowly backing into as an organization. He’s not a top six forward, that can be said for sure by now. The amount of times Datsyuk feathered a pass to this guy and it was sent high and wide was infuriating, especially when it came to playoffs. We can’t have a top six forward getting less points than Mike Green. We just simply cannot afford it.
If he could stay on as a cheap asset, fixed to that third line I would gladly welcome it. But if next season he were still here playing second line minutes I’d be seriously disappointed.