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Crowded at C: Wings to open with Helm as Datsyuk’s winger

Sep 3, 2014, 2:27 PM EDT

With Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Darren Helm, Stephen Weiss, Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening and Joakim Andersson down the middle, the Detroit Red Wings have one of those “good problems” — an abundance of NHL-caliber centers.

And it’s a problem Mike Babcock already has a solution for.

While playing Helm with Datsyuk isn’t anything new — last year, the two skated together along with Justin Abdelkader on a makeshift line — it is curious that Babcock would make the move now, with everybody healthy and his feelings on how well Helm plays the middle.

“I think he’s is the best third-line center in the NHL when he’s healthy,” Babcock said last November, per the Macomb Daily. “He’s just got to get his game back. He can be a real factor for us. He’s flat out got speed, he’s tenacious, he’s strong, he’s heavy and he’s a good player.”

Helm, 27, has struggled with a myriad of injuries over the last two years. He missed 58 games (extending over two seasons) with a serious back ailment, then an additional 26 last season with shoulder, head and groin issues. When healthy, though, he’s an impact guy, scoring 12 goals and 20 points in 42 games last year while displaying the versatility to fill a number of different roles up front.

Now, the big question moving forward is — who will occupy the wing opposite Helm? Abdelkader got the call last year, as mentioned above, but the move came under fire on a number of occasions as it seemed incongruous to put Datsyuk’s playmaking abilities in between two guys that are — no disrespect intended — grinder types more than skill players.

Mind you, if Datsyuk can continue to do things like this, Helm and whoever should be just fine.

  1. corpsman123 - Sep 3, 2014 at 2:35 PM

    It doesn’t matter who they put Datsyuk with. They will become better. Looking forward to watching Helm do some front flip goals this season.

  2. rbbbaron - Sep 3, 2014 at 2:35 PM

    Don’t forget that Nyquist and Franzen are natural centers. But we REALLY needed Legwand last year, right?

    • cheliostwin - Sep 3, 2014 at 8:43 PM

      When the Wings traded for Legwand, their top 5 centers were all out with injuries. The Wings desparately needed an experienced center for a month or two.

      • rbbbaron - Sep 3, 2014 at 9:30 PM

        Their top 5 were out? Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Weiss were clearly out, while Helm was taking a few games off and I think Andersson also sat out a few games. They were NOT desperately in need an experienced center for a month or two– Sheahan and Glendening were doing very well with the added responsibility, Emmerton was also in the mix back then and if they didn’t want to call up someone (ahem, Jarnkrok?) then they could have shifted Nyquist or Franzen, guys who were drafted as centers, for a few games while Helm got back.
        Instead Holland went out and got himself fleeced by Poile. A player, 2nd round pick and top prospect for…Legwand!? It was a bad trade from the beginning, and then a pure insult when he was absolutely terrible for them in those 20-odd games (his advanced stats were actually worse than Patrick Eaves’ last season while with the Wings). Babcock didn’t know what to do with the guy.

      • timmmah10 - Sep 4, 2014 at 1:39 PM

        Remember that the top prospect didn’t want to be in the organization anymore… it was really a 2nd for Legwand, with him thrown in. It was a lot to give up, but prices were high around the league last year. Legwand is gone now, the team will be better with a year of experience (including playoffs) for the young guys. Jarnkrok probably doesn’t make the team again out of camp, and becomes even more disgruntled. The wings do well with their later picks and seem to hit pretty well on their latter half of the first round picks, no need to get all pissed off about that trade.

      • rbbbaron - Sep 4, 2014 at 2:47 PM

        Yes, Jarnkrok was given away for practically nothing because Holland buried him under guys like Weiss and Emmerton. The rumors about him jetting back to Sweden were there to help justify yet another instance of resource mismanagement on Holland’s part: there were lower prices being paid for far better players last year around the deadline.

        “The wings do well with their later picks” no, not really. They had some high profile home runs in the past, but those guys were drafted in the late 90’s and their comparative advantage in scouting abroad was quickly dulled when the other teams were introduced to Datsyuk. Don’t expect to see those kinds of late-round surprises anymore.

  3. mshantz22 - Sep 3, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    I just hope they don’t put Weiss as the 3rd or 4th line center. Love to see him alongside Z and franzen.

    • polegojim - Sep 3, 2014 at 3:50 PM

      While that sounds nice… Weiss hasn’t even earned a 4th line spot yet. The guys been a bust.

      • mshantz22 - Sep 3, 2014 at 4:46 PM

        He’s not going anywhere, so unless you want to watch $5 million skate around on the 4th line, I’d give the guy a shot.

      • polegojim - Sep 3, 2014 at 8:23 PM

        Didn’t say I want him to go anywhere or eat his contract… I want him to EARN his 5 mil… which he hasn’t done, even when healthy.

        I also don’t believe in ‘giving’ anyone a shot… shots at top lines are earned… it’s all up to him. He can just cash checks, or he can play hockey well enough to earn them

        Hope that was clearer… EARN.

  4. tmoore4075 - Sep 3, 2014 at 3:28 PM

    My guess?

    Helm-Dats-Abby
    Mule-Hank-Nyquist
    Tatar-Weiss-Alfie (assuming he signs)
    Miler-Sheehan-Glendenning

    • corpsman123 - Sep 3, 2014 at 3:54 PM

      I’m going to agree with that, assuming Weiss doesn’t become a repeat snake in the grass. In that case I would switch Sheehan with him. If Mule starts this season the way he ended the last one I wouldn’t be suprised is Tatar took his spot.

  5. paperkid96 - Sep 3, 2014 at 3:53 PM

    Cleary, you forgot Cleary.

  6. wingsfan97 - Sep 3, 2014 at 3:56 PM

    Should be:
    Hank pav alfie(mantha)
    Goose Weiss mule
    Tatar sheahan jurco
    Abs helm glendening

  7. shanekelleytx - Sep 3, 2014 at 4:30 PM

    No one has Jurco making the team?

  8. porkchopexpress1969 - Sep 3, 2014 at 7:52 PM

    Jurco should be starting day one. But I believe he is the only one that can be sent down bypassing waivers . He should be up. He deserves it

  9. hieronymous27 - Sep 4, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    Helm the third best center in the NHL when he’s healthy? Who died that he’s in the #3 spot?

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