This week began with optimism for the Detroit Red Wings, as the team thought they were finally going to see center Darren Helm return from injured reserve. After completing a two-game rehab stint with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL, Helm was back in Detroit and everything was good – until a groin injury started to bother him in practice. This was the kind of same injury that had already cost him training camp and the first two weeks of the season, and it’s just the latest in an almost two-year long saga that has cut short the career of a promising young player.
Helm’s injury woes date back to March 2012, when he left a game against the San Jose Sharks on the 17th. He didn’t play again until the first round of the playoffs, where a skate cut his wrist in a game against the Nashville Predators on Apr. 11. He had surgery and was able to use the longer-than-normal offseason to recover, and should have been ready to go after the lockout ended. He hurt his back in the weight room before the season started, but returned for a Jan. 25 game against the Minnesota Wild. That ended up being his one and only appearance of the season as he battled back and groin injuries. He was able to practice with the team’s prospects at a rookie camp, but didn’t participate in contact drills. To recap, Helm has appeared in only two games in the last 19 months. Given the history he has established, this run of bad luck could be far from over.
The Red Wings have missed Helm’s speed and skill in their lineup, and have had to adjust their roster more than a few times. When Helm was expected back, they returned Luke Glendening to the AHL, and have now started using Johan Franzen as a center. They already have roster issues to contend with when Patrick Eaves is ready to return, and at this point would have to be wary of trading or waiving another forward to give Helm a spot. Thankfully, they have a handful of skilled prospects waiting in the AHL because while Helm has long been a fan favorite, eventually everyone’s patience will run out.