Nightmare on Helm Street had a small little write-up today about their namesake. Go ahead and give it a read (it's a fantastic blog), but I just wanted to expand on it a little bit because Darren Helm deserves to get some more air time as he falls in the long shadows cast by the titans on this team in Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom et al.
Over the last three seasons + one playoffs now, we've witnessed one of the most amazing transformations in a long time. In 2008, Helm burst )literally) onto the scene as an energy guy, hitting everything that moved with a tenacity normally reserved for the fiercest Doberman's guarding Fort Knox.
He killed penalties, he made life miserable for opposing top players, and he flew. Man did he fly.
In 2009 it was much of the same, playing a crucial role in the playoffs as an energy guy. And the energy followed in 2010, as he finally got to play a full season. But no matter how many penalties he killed, there was always an aspect completely lacking from his game: hands that could put the puck in the net and size to really make that tenacity mean something.
And then this year happened. Helm chipped in 12 goals, 20 assists, for 32 points, far and away a career high. He was a force all year, and the words "Next Kris Draper" were being uttered by anyone and everyone who saw him play.
And then the playoffs started. And Darren Helm became something entirely more frightening.
Darren Helm started looking like the next Mike Richards.
Now I know it's early to say that. And it also may never happen. Afterall, Richards is one of the premier two-way forwards in the league, right behind Pavel Datsyuk and Ryan Kesler. He's a two-time 30 goal score, a perenial candidate for the Selke, and the heart and soul of the Philadelphia Flyers' work ethic. He hits and he hits hard, and he turns his physicality into a tool that allows him to have offensive opportunities.
So back to Darren Helm. In the first round of the playoffs, Helm laid out two absolutely massive hits. The first was the demolition of the much larger Ed Jovanovksi. it was ruled a boarding penalty, but it was anything but. The second was the way he essentially blew up (probable) Norris Candidate Keith Yandle, took the loose puck and fed Patrick Eaves who was chilling on the doorstep (as Yandle was still on his ass and couldn't cover Eaves who couldn't have been camping any better unless he had whipped out the graham crackers, marshmallows and choclate and started sharing his smores with Bryzgalov),
Again, Helm didn't look like a fourth line energy guy who can chip in some points. He looked like an elite player, a top line centre who plays responsible, two-way hockey and who is putting the pieces together to become a hard-nosed skill player. Like Mike Richards.
Now, I'm not saying this is reality, nor am I trying to say that if Helm doesn't score 30 goals he's not Mike Richards. What I'm trying to say is that this guy may not have hit his top gear yet.
And if I'm another team in the Western Conference, that's enough to make me run for the hills.
Only problem is, Helm would probably catch them.