Bruce Cassidy is not going to throw anything foreign at new assistant coach Chris Kelly in his first run behind the Boston bench.
In fact, Cassidy is putting Kelly right back in his comfort zone as Jay Pandolfo’s replacement.
“Chris will work with the defensive side of the puck with the forwards,” Cassidy, entering his fifth season as the B’s coach, confirmed Wednesday. “That was the best part of his game when he played [and] he’s the most comfortable with it coming into an NHL locker room coaching. So we’ll start with that and we’ll see where it leads down the road.”
And the Bruins themselves aren’t going to throw themselves into an uncomfortable spot with Kelly joining their staff.
“We feel he’s a lot where [Pandolfo] was when he joined the staff,” Cassidy noted. “He had done player development [and was] most recently retired of all of us, has a connection to that locker room, won a Stanley Cup here with guys that are still playing. So that’ll all work to his advantage. He’s worked with young guys in Providence, so hopefully [that’ll] help depending on the construction of the team with guys that have been there. They’ll have a head start there.”
Coaching isn’t totally foreign to Kelly, as he served as an assistant on interim head coach Marc Crawford’s staff with the Senators for 18 games back in 2019. Kelly was also teammates with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand in Boston, played with Curtis Lazar in Ottawa, and Chris Wagner in Anaheim. He was also coached by Cassidy when he first turned pro.
There’s a lot of familiarity here for Kelly.
“I’ve formed pretty good relationships with the younger players and other players in that locker room just being around the last two years,” Kelly said last month. “I don’t see it being much of an issue. I’m just there to help the guys day in and day out.”
One noticeable difference in the switch from Pandolfo to Kelly, however, will come on the offensive side of the things. Pandolfo had delved deeper into power-play work towards the end of his Bruins tenure, and the Bruins were among the league’s better power-play groupings under his watch, with a 21.9 percent success rate in 2021 (10th-best in the NHL).
And with Kevin Dean still in charge of the Boston defense, the Bruins will look towards Joe Sacco to take on some of that work.
“As for the day-to-day responsibilities, we’ve juggled a few things. Joe [Sacco] has gotten a little more on the offensive side of things,” Cassidy said. “And I think we all coach every part of the game, but that’s how we’re going to break it down to start, make Chris as comfortable as possible. I think Joe, being a head coach in NHL and at different levels can handle a lot of different areas of the games, so I’m not worried there.
“Hopefully it works out for the best and everyone’s comfortable with their assignment and we’ll go from there.”
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.