Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Poll: With Darren Helm Shut Down, is Deadline Decision in Question...?

With Darren Helm now out for the year, management's choice to stand pat at the deadline was... free polls 

When the news broke yesterday that Coach Mike Babcock had released a statement confirming the speedy, gritty forward Darren Helm was to be shut down for the rest of the season due to his back issues, there were two things that immediately crossed my mind.  The first came to me as I watched my Twitter feed explode in frustration as, despite the public outcry of regret that we had lost our dear Helmer for the whole season, there wasn't a single person that was surprised about it, myself included.  The second thing that crossed my mind came immediately after, when I realized: If it was so obvious to everyone else in the world that Helmer wasn't going to be back this year, why would Ken Holland and the management/coaching staff wait till now to play it safe and prepare under the assumption that we WOULDN'T have Helm in the lineup?

What this now means is that one of our main roster guys who we desperately needed to get back to bolster the depth lines on the Wings is gone.  That's a big loss to the checking, faceoff (Helm has been pretty consistently at or over 50% at the dot over the last two seasons), and forecheck/puck retrieval game.  Now, the only mainstays left to count on coming back are Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson.  Bert's back is also his issue, and it's impossible to say if he doesn't end up tweaking something further and ending up like Helm, while Sammy just...seems to find new and inventive ways to get himself hurt and not play.

And now, here we are.  The Red Wings have 9 games remaining, and coming into today, they currently sit in 8th in the West.  Most teams have finally caught up to Detroit in games played, but we have Dallas currently over our shoulder just 2 points behind, same GP, and we only play one more time this year.  Needless to say, our entrance into this year's playoffs is less than assured at this juncture.

The point that I'm driving at here is this: Considering that we had roster issues from day one, and then we saw Detroit become absolutely riddled with injuries from which we still have not fully recovered, it begs the question of, 'Was it truly the right call by management--I realize it's not all on Kenny Holland's shoulders--to not kick some tires a little harder and try to pull the trigger on at least one deal to reinforce the lineup before the end of the regular season?

There are some arguments on both sides of this potential debate.  From the viewpoint of standing pat being a wise choice, you concede the fact that, regardless of what the Wings do this year, it is still going to be a 'transitional' year, nothing will change that.  You do not lose a player the caliber of Nicklas Lidstrom and stay as great a force in the league as you were the year before, it is not possible.  Ad to that the retirement of veteran Tomas Holmstrom and the departure of blueliner Brad Stuart, and you've lost 3 key pieces to your lineup.  Trades and free agency do not replace guys like these, at least not fully.  It's easy to look at all those losses and go, "Oh shit, we need to snap up anything on the market that will bite!", but that is irresponsible.  Detroit knows it has great, young talent coming up through the Grand Rapids Griffins and are ready in some cases--such as Nyquist, Tatar, Andersson and Lashoff--and some almost to that point, like Sheahan, just needing a bit more time to marinate in the AHL.  You give some of these guys roster spots to fill the holes and get some NHL playing time and see what they can do, and in some cases you get a nice surprise.  With that, you simply try to weather the storm and if you get into the post-season, well...everything from there begins anew, and you make your own fate.

On the other side, however, you can argue that anything less than a product designed to have the best chance to win itself a Cup that year is a failure.  There's not a single team on opening night that says to itself, "Yeah, we'll just do our best this year, but the Cup? No way.".  It is the goal of every team, every year, and to take actions that will undermine that goal are irrational.  Holes in the lineup? Fill them with the best talent you can.  Someone is underperforming? Advise them that if their play does not improve, they could either be sent down or shopped to another team in a package deal.  Now granted, when you look at the offseason acquisitions Detroit made, the only one I agree with to this point is Jordin Tootoo, as we've needed a player like that since...well, since we won our last Cup, really.  Beyond that, however, the pickups we made were...head-scratchers at best.  With even less options at the deadline, and knowing every team in playoff contention is looking to ramp up their squad with guys from the teams in the Seller's Cellar, the urgency to get something has to be palpable.  There were players at this year's trade deadline that would have made the Red Wings a better team, but for myriad reasons, we did not make the moves.

So now, we rise and fall with what we had available at the beginning, minus one of our best grinders and a great guy on faceoffs.  Helm will sorely be missed, but the Red Wings's fate is not sealed just yet  A few wins and we're in, a few losses and...well, we don't need to think about that JUST yet.