Low-key Daley provides poise to Red Wings’ blue line

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — When defenseman Trevor Daley signed a free-agent contract with the Red Wings on July 1, there weren’t the massive headlines and social-media onslaught typically associated with signings of the past.

Which, in some ways, is understandable given Daley’s low-key demeanor and calm way about him on the ice.

One of the key reasons the Red Wings signed Daley to a three-year contract worth $9.5 million was his ability stabilize the defense, a position that needed one more veteran’s presence.

Nearing the quarter pole in the NHL schedule, Daley has essentially been what the Red Wings needed and expected.

Entering Wednesday’s game against Calgary, Daley only had one assist (his lone point) in 18 games, and he was minus-5 in the plus-minus rating.

But, then, you realize Daley is playing 22 minutes 5 seconds per game — just behind Mike Green’s team-leading 23:29 — and Daley has been on the top pairing with mainly Danny DeKeyser or Jonathan Ericsson all season, going against top lines, and it’s allowed coach Jeff Blashill to play the other defensemen in better-suited roles and situations.

The Red Wings are fortunate to have several veterans who can settle things down when situations begin swirling out of control.

Daley is definitely one.

“He’s a calm player, real low-key,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He’s competitive as can be, and there are times you definitely see his competitiveness.

“But in games, his poise under pressure is excellent.”

Daley had several teams bidding for his services July 1, including teams that are likely stronger playoff possibilities than the Red Wings.

But Daley has been a believer in the Red Wings’ potential from the day he signed, and hasn’t wavered into the second month of the regular season.

“You just want to give yourself a chance,” Daley said. “I believe this team is good enough to win. You want to get in (to the playoffs) and give yourself a chance.

“Stay with the pack, and give yourself an opportunity.”


Helm out

The Red Wings were without forward Darren Helm for Wednesday’ game, out with a lower-body injury, Blashill said.

Helm was injured during Saturday’s game against Columbus, and hasn’t practiced for two days before Wednesday’s game.

Blashill termed Helm’s availability “day-to-day” at this point, but didn’t seem confident Helm would be ready to play Friday against Buffalo.

With no Helm or Martin Frk (lower body) available against the Flames, David Booth and Luke Witkowski were in the lineup.

Blashill wasn’t sure if Witkowski would be used as a defenseman, or forward, but Witkowski’s versatility gives Blashill the option of playing 11 forwards and seven defensemen, or 12 forwards and six defensemen.

Booth hadn’t played since Oct. 20 against Washington, and has played only four games this season.

“David Booth has worked extremely hard and hasn’t had the opportunity,” Blashill said. “He deserves the opportunity.”

Ice chips

The Red Wings had the opportunity to play Calgary forward Jaromir Jagr, who’ll be 46 in February, twice in less than a week.

“He’s been an elite player for a long, long time,” said Blashill, noting Jagr’s ability to help a young player such as Mark Jankowski on Jagr’s line. “He’s still an elite player. It gives them a lot of depth.”

Henrik Zetterberg is three points from tying Pavel Datsyuk (918 points) for sixth place all-time in Red Wings history.