Detroit’s decision to re-sign Darren Helm to a five year deal worth nearly $4MM per season moments before the beginning of free agency came as a surprise to many but in the early stages of this season, Helm is living up to the contract. Through six games, he has four goals and one assist, leading the team in the goal department. As is often the case, Helm offered up the standard lines when asked about his early success but one comment in particular stands out from the 29 year old:
“I’m just having fun right now.”
As Gregg Krupa of the Detroit News notes, that wasn’t exactly the case for everyone last season which was part of the reason why it was surprising that Helm, who was disenchanted with being viewed strictly as a checking center, opted to come back. However, head coach Jeff Blashill currently has him with a pair of strong offensive wingers in Gustav Nyquist and Thomas Vanek which is allowing Helm to show that he can bring more to the table than just his speed.
[Related: Red Wings Depth Chart]
More from Detroit, who have won four straight games to match their longest winning streak from last season:
- Defense has been the key to their recent success, writes MLive’s Ansar Khan. Blashill in particular has been impressed with rookie Ryan Sproul, who made his season debut recently and has two points in two games. The team is currently carrying seven defensemen which will turn to eight when Niklas Kronwall returns. Sproul is waiver eligible which means he’s playing for his job right now, or least an opportunity with another organization if the team decides to try to send him down over carrying two extra blueliners.
- After a tough season last year, goaltender Jimmy Howard is off to a much better start this season, with a .980 SV% while allowing just one goal in two starts so far. He tells Khan that a big reason for the strong start is better understanding the backup role. After being the starter for several years, he lost that spot to Petr Mrazek last season, a role he maintains to start 2016-17. With a cap hit just under $5.3MM, the Wings are undoubtedly hoping he can keep up his hot start to build back some trade value or perhaps entice Las Vegas in next June’s expansion draft.
- Left winger Justin Abdelkader didn’t play over the weekend due to a lower body injury. GM Ken Holland told reporters, including Dana Wakiji of their team site, that he’s listed as day-to-day. Abdelkader has a goal in five games this season.