Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock calls Darren Helm "an everydayer," meaning he always gives maximum effort and has winning on his mind. With last season as proof, the Red Wings need Helm to show up every day in order to win enough games to maintain their Stanley Cup contender status.
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"The interesting stat is what was our record last year with Helm in the lineup and what was our record without him?" Babcock said. "You're going to be shocked. That right there writes your whole article."
Detroit was 42-22-4 with Helm in the lineup last season; 6-6-2 without him.
Babcock said he felt Detroit was in a good position when the playoffs began because Helm was back in the lineup after missing the final 10 games of the regular season, but he suffered a deep cut on his right forearm early in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals and had to undergo surgery. He never returned and the Red Wings lost to the Nashville Predators in five games.
"We were the No. 1 team in the NHL after 60-plus games last season and we traded our first-round pick because it was then the No. 30 pick," Babcock said. "Helm got hurt and now we would have had the 19th pick."
With Helm healthy and in the lineup, the Red Wings feel they have enough forward depth to compete with any team in the NHL. He's not as gifted as Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg, but Babcock said he thinks Helm is the best third-line center in the NHL because he gives the Red Wings depth, speed and faceoff wins -- three elements that make for a dangerous opponent.
Babcock went so far as to include Helm in a grouping with Datsyuk and Zetterberg as the forwards who make the Red Wings' offense go.
"This guy is just one of those Energizer bunnies. He keeps on trucking," Babcock said. "[Helm] walks in and immediately charges up the room. That's how important he is to our team. You know, sometimes as a coach when you lose a guy the appreciation for that guy goes up."
Center - DET
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 17 | PTS: 26
SOG: 124 | +/-: 5
Babcock has never measured Helm's value by his points -- good news for Helm considering he had 26 in 68 games last season after scoring 32 points in 82 games in 2010-11. However, the coach did admit that Helm can improve on his production to become a 40-point guy, and he needs to become more dominant in the faceoff circle.
Helm won 51.9 percent of his faceoffs last season (403 of 777). It was a slight decline from the prior season, when he won 52.6 percent of his draws (493 of 938).
"I think one of the things you have to be careful of here is you have to do what you do and do it to the best of your ability," Babcock said. "He's at the stage of his career, no matter who they play against us on the road it should be no issue. If it's (Anze) Kopitar, it should be no issue. He can play against anybody, and with his work ethic and tenacity he can wear anybody out."