More than a few Red Wings partisans on Twitter, Facebook and this humble blog have reacted to Darren Helm’s departure for the sometimes-despised Colorado Avalanche, after 14 seasons with the Red Wings organization, with a simple, “So what?”
That’s understandable. Helm, now 34, was playing as 4th line forward on Detroit’s roster last season, and the rivalry with the Avalanche sure isn’t what it used to be…
But I can speak for everybody who reacted to this free agent departure with heartbreak, and I can do it quite simply: sometimes fans’ emotional investments in players are greater than the sum of their on-ice contributions, and for many fans of the 2008 Stanley Cup Champions, Darren Helm was that last connection to the Wings’ salary cap-era Cup.
There is nothing wrong with the Helm fans losing their Gord-dang minds over a past-his-prime player signing with a historical but not present-day rival. This is how fandom works–sometimes we invest an enormous amount of time, energy and effort into following specific players, and losing their services stings.
Rather than bashing Helm for being a bit player whose absence may very well make the Wings more competitive (which is certainly a valid observation regarding the Wings’ departures of Helm, Abdelkader, Glendening, Ericsson and other 2008-Cup-Era-or-Thereabouts players), I would ask that those of you who don’t feel much sympathy for those shook up by the “changing of the guard” on Steve Yzerman’s Red Wings team to remind yourself that roster turnover isn’t always business in the hearts of sentimental fans.
Hockey is not a business for everyone, and some fans love their “washed-up Wings.” There’s nothing wrong with that. Give them their time and space to grieve as you prepare to move on to the next chapter in Red Wings history.