2015-16 Red Wings Player Grades: Darren Helm
The 2015-16 season for Darren Helm was a struggle to find consistent production in a fluctuating role for the Detroit Red Wings.
Born: January 21, 1987 (29)
Birthplace: St. Andrews, Manitoba
Contract Status: UFA
Darren Helm’s 9th season in Detroit found the left-winger / center featured in a mishmash of line combinations. Helm’s speed made it look like he could be successful as a top 6 forward, but it never translated to any consistent results. His ATOI dropped by 46 seconds from 2014-15 and he tallied 7 fewer points this season compared to his career high in 2014-15.
Helm spent about half his time on ice paired up with Pavel Datsyuk on the second line. Datsyuk saw his GF60 drop from 2.23 to 1.90 with Helm on his wing and Datsyuk's GA60 increased from 1.60 to 2.18. Helm's lack of offensive prowess lead to disappointment as a top 6 forward and his play seemingly inhibited the production of one of Detroit’s best players.
The second line was a poor fit for Helm, where his aggressive play did not result in positive numbers for his teammates. His game fit better on the third and fourth lines where his talent helped bring out the best in his linemates. Luke Glendening saw an increase of 0.65 GF60 when on the ice with Helm. Helm finished the season playing on the second line with Datsyuk and Brad Richards, but a third line "energy" role seemed like a more natural fit for him.
Even though Helm never settled into a steady and productive role 5v5, he performed admirably on the penalty kill. Drew Miller’s broken jaw and torn meniscus left a hole in Detroit’s penalty kill unit. As a result Helm’s minutes increased on the kill and he continued to perform well shorthanded, as he has done for most of his career in Detroit.
Injuries are mostly bad luck, but Helm was categorized as an injury prone player after shortened seasons for three consecutive years starting in 2011-12. This season started off ominously as Helm collided with Jerome Verrier in training camp and suffered a concussion and slightly separated shoulder. He missed some time at the start of the season but was able to play in over 70 games for the second season in a row. However, this might not be enough to quell the notion that he is an oft injured player heading into unrestricted free agency.
What He Did Vs. Expectations
Helm entered the season at the end of a 4 year deal and looked to define himself as a top 6 forward and land a big new contract in the offseason. Mike Babcock had utilized Helm as a second line winger in 2014-15 and this season was to be the year he solidified himself as a top line forward. But Helm fell short of expectations and once again the question must be asked if Helm can produce enough offensively to be more than a bottom 6 grinder.
Power play time and points proved elusive as first-year Red Wing coach Jeff Blashill reduced his role on the man advantage. His time on the advantage fell from 1:43 per game in 2014-15 to 0:46. The drop off in power play opportunities hurt Helm’s overall production. He registered no points on the power play this season compared to the 7 the previous year. Helm’s contribution on the man advantage was below expectations, but they should have been tempered entering the season without knowing what Blashill would try to do with the power play units. Some production from Helm would have been expected this season and earned him more time, but overall his performance on the man advantage was disappointing.
Still, Helm proved valuable as a penalty killer and averaged 1:48 per game on the kill, which was only topped by, Luke Glendening and Riley Sheahan at the forward position (w/more than 30 GP). Helm has been a solid contributor on the kill for most of his time in Detroit and he met expectations once again in that facet of the game.
Final Grade: C+
Even though it is his 9th season as a Wing, 2015-16 feels like a disappointment for Helm because he has not developed enough to reach his potential as a top 6 forward. And this season is a microcosm for his entire career in Detroit. Yes, he has provided plenty of value on the penalty kill, but his speed has not developed into the offensive threat that it could have been. He showed glimpses in 2014-15 of being that top 6 forward, but his game has not been refined in the offensive zone. Could his injuries have hampered his growth? Yes, but his raw talent has still not resulted in the consistent offensive production needed for the Red Wings to commit to Helm as a top 6 forward.
Looking forward to 2016-17, Darren Helm could be brought back as a decent asset at the right price, and Mlive is reporting that the Red Wings have already offered him a contract.