When former Detroit Red Wings forward Darren Helm signed with the Colorado Avalanche Thursday, it closed the chapter on the last remaining link to the 2008 Stanley Cup Champion. Helm was an instrumental part of the 2008 team, and would shine even brighter in the 2009 playoff run–though that one wouldn’t end as spectacularly for Detroit.
Helm became a fan favorite–flashing blazing speed, and the ability to be a swiss army knife on the ice. He centered the fourth line, was a weapon on the penalty kill, and even scored a couple goals, his first career goal coming in the playoffs. He was the type of player Red Wings fans loved, a blue collar, leaving every ounce of effort he had on the ice.
He drew comparisons to Kris Draper and it was apt. His efforts–along with the rest of the team–were rewarded with a Stanley Cup at the conclusion of the season. 2009 saw an elevated role for Helm and huge goals along the way–none bigger than the game winner that clinched a second consecutive Western Conference Championship.
A back to back title slipped through their fingers, and without many of us knowing it at the time, it’d be the closest they’d come for what has now been twelve years.
Helm Grew into a Red Wings Leader
As retirements to key players continued, Helm grew into a locker room leader. He would enjoy his best statistical season in 2014-15 (15-18-33), truly the last real gasp of the Red Wings machine, which lost in seven hard fought games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Then head coach Mike Babcock considered Helm one of the team’s best players, and his efforts, along with those of Luke Glendening, were two of many reasons Detroit hung on as long as it did.
Though they made the playoffs in 2016, they would bow out in five games to the same Lightning and not return. He would re-sign to a five-year deal which was a thank you from then general manager Ken Holland.
Injuries would slow Helm at times in his career, and his blazing speed would slow a bit through the years. But flashes would burst from time to time. Though he would match the production that got him the raise just once during that five-year span, Helm remained a fan favorite–even as they joked about the lack of goals on breakaways.
The Future for both Helm and the Wings is Now
Helm played in all but eight games in the abbreviated 2021 season, contributing 8 points (3-5) in 48 games. He was a good soldier to the end but the writing was on the wall. Listed as potentially getting moved at the trade deadline, he ended up staying put. But it was clear the Red Wings were moving forward and Helm could pursue his chances elsewhere.
Helm gets that chance with Colorado, a team that will benefit from his leadership and constant effort–a place where he serve as that valuable role player and perhaps surprise a few new fans as to just how useful he really is. Wings fans will see a glimpse of that player they remember from the glory years.
But it’s a change that was long overdue. It gives Helm the opportunity to chase another Cup, something well deserved after languishing in a brutal rebuild over the last four seasons. It gives Detroit another roster spot to open up, the chance to grow another Helm like player who can become that player in the mold of a speedy, hard skating forward.
It’s crazy to think it’s been 13 years since he made his debut in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a time when the regular season was merely the appetizer to the second season. Those days will return–hopefully sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, all the best to Helm, who provided a host of great memories, and will go down as a fan favorite during a time of transition for the organization.