Darren Helm is great. He really is. His absence from the Red Wings this past season was really noticeable, although Joakim Andersson did a nice job filling in for him on the 3rd line. If ever there were an X-factor for this roster right now it would be Helm. Few players in the NHL today can get your blood pumping with a shorthanded breakaway and ludicrous speed, and even fewer can put you right back in your seat when he misses the net on said shorthanded breakaway. Yes, we all love Darren Helm and
his dreamy eyes all he does for the Wings.
But it’s time to face facts, no amount of optimism is going to heal his back by October.
Optimism is exactly what Helm has going into the Red Wings’ informal skates this week. Despite his up-beat attitude in interviews like this, Helm admits he isn’t fully recovered yet. Keep in mind he has been injured since before last season where he played all of one game. But that’s not enough to Helmer down, right? He can bounce back! Helen St. James of the Detroit Free Press summed it up best with the way she opened her article:
Darren Helm isn’t 100% healthy, and he isn’t comfortable working out like he did before.
This is a serious concern on so many levels. The Red Wings’ PK rate wasn’t horrible last season, but it’s unquestionably better with Helm involved. It’s been a source of weakness in the past and going into the Eastern Conference you don’t want to give these teams anything more to pick at. However, a player’s health should never be potentially compromised for something like that. The last thing the team wants to do is rush him back too soon and injure him further, and let’s not pretend things like this doesn’t happen in sports. In fact, given that he was hurt doing squats before last season’s training camp, he may have been pushing himself too hard to get ready for the season. A few more months without Helm is worth it to have him back for a few more years. That’s even to say if he’s ready to come back, which I doubt he is.
Helm mentions in his interview with Ms. St. James that he hasn’t quite gotten back to his original level of working out, which makes me wonder if he’s even in the appropriate shape to rejoin the team. This isn’t to say that he wouldn’t get back to that level eventually, but if he isn’t working out at 100%, can he be expected to play at the 100% the team would need? His informal skates in Traverse City were also the first time he’s skated since the last game he played. It’ll take more than a training camp for him to get his timing back AND be in shape to play well. Let’s not forget that he still hasn’t taken contact at practice yet. I’m sure he will soon, and let’s hope it goes well, because the last thing Helm needs right now is another setback.
Remember that the injury he suffered was a “Slightly torn disc” in his back. Such an injury makes one about as capable of skating as a slightly severed foot. By no means did my time doing medical work in the military make me an expert on back injuries, but if something is powerful enough to rip the bones from your back and it isn’t a town Bruce Springsteen lived in, the idea of it taking more than a hockey season to recover isn’t all that unreasonable. This is to say nothing of the cap crunch the Wings are in right now with entirely too many forwards. A little LTIR relief, and a little more time to recover, may not be the worst thing right now.
I want Helm back as soon as it’s safe to have him back. In the meantime, talking about a healthy Darren Helm being healthy on day one is like talking about Santa Claus, because neither one is real.