Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Breakout Seasons

The term "breakout" is often used to describe a player hitting his potential. His breakout season is when he really starts to become effective on the ice. Sometimes it takes a few seasons for this to happen. Not everyone is Sidney Crosby or Steve Yzerman - both had 39 goals in their rookie seasons.

Breakout seasons are not always easy to come by on the Detroit Red Wings. This is mostly due to the veteran talent Detroit usually has throughout the roster. Young guys really have to battle for ice time. The best breakout seasons I have seen in recent years have come from Jimmy Howard, Jiri Hudler and Johan Franzen. Howard shined last season, while the Mule proved he is the true definition of a power forward a few seasons ago. Hudler, well, I never noticed how effective the guy was until he was gone. He had a couple breakout seasons.

Who is next? It should have been Valtteri Filppula last season if not for his wrist injury. Yet, I can't really complain. Filppula doesn't need to "breakout" in my opinion. He just needs to stay consistent and be smart. He's freaking good.

Darren Helm seems to have a huge following of loyal "Helmer" fans. A lot of people have pegged him as the next Kris Draper or Kirk Maltby - in their primes of course. Mickey Redmond may be his number one fan. But even Mickey must admit: Helm could be a lot better. Last season should have been Helm's breakout party. What happened? He played in 75 games, 12 playoff games with not the most impressive numbers - 11 goals, 24 points and one playoff goal. Let's not get too excited. With his speed and the amount of ice time he got last season, he should have had 20 goals. He may have done his job on the defensive end of the puck, but he still needs to prove himself as an effective offensive player.

With the signing of veteran Mike Modano, some fans complained this would take ice time away from developing players such as Helm and Justin Abdelkader. I want to remind everyone this is the Detroit Red Wings, not the Florida Panthers. Players like Helm and Abdelkader aren't simply given time to develop. They have to earn it. In my opinion, they haven't showed the consistency needed to be effective in this lineup every night.

It's not typically fair to harp on third and fourth line guys for points production. I am not saying Helm, Abdelkader, Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller need to be scoring every shift. Not possible. But I do want to see consistency. I don't believe a forward's breakout season should be about scoring points necessarily. Yet, he needs to show he's capable of doing what it takes, every night.