For years now, it’s been Johan Franzen who has been nicknamed The Mule, Steve Yzerman bestowing the ridiculous name on the Swede. And at times, the nickname has rung true. Franzen has carried the weight of this team on many occasions–or at least come up big in dire situations.
But now it’s Darren Helm‘s turn.
We’ve talked about it before. The Darren Helm we’re seeing on the ice this season is drastically changed from the player we saw before he fell to injury after injury.
We used to worry about Helm’s chances on breakaways. Hands of stone, all that jazz. But now Red Wings fans see things like this that both confuse and exhilarate us:
Helm is a changed player, and it’s for the better.
With both Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk out of the lineup for the first time since 2006, Helm’s role is even bigger. It’s hard to fill a gap left by two of this team’s superstars, but to everyone’s surprise, the team is 4-0-0 in Datsyuk’s absence. Should we be concerned for the lack of Zetterberg? Maybe a little.
However, if Helm continues to play on this pace, we needn’t worry about “secondary” scoring. He has proven himself to be a key player when it’s needed. In his fourteen games played, he’s raked in seven goals and three assists, which makes him tied for third-most goals on this team with Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson. He’s on pace for nearly fifty points; his career high in the NHL is just 32 points from the 2010-11 season.
And maybe the lack of the two superstars will help this team find their groove. They seem to be working harder than the rest of the season during this Datsyuk-less stretch. That’s a good thing. No longer do they look like they’re coasting along on the ice, waiting to blow a two goal lead in the third period.
Let’s be realistic for a moment: the fate of this team does not rest solely on the shoulders of Helm. Players like Drew Miller, Gustav Nyquist, and Alfredsson have already played key roles in the absence of superstars. And guys like Stephen Weiss have yet to find their groove on this team; if there’s a perfect moment for a multiple point game, now is Weiss’s time to do so.
But to be able to lean on a guy like Helm, who has been in the Red Wings system for quite a long time, is wonderful. To see him finally opening up and showing his true potential feels like a weight off our own shoulders.