Full disclosure. I’m not a Chris Kelly fan.
Shocking I know. But even I felt bad for the guy Tuesday night. The broken femur he suffered against was disturbing to watch. And the fact that he wasn’t even touched on the play made you hope there wasn’t some underlying condition that caused it. Despite my feelings about him, I didn’t want to see him play his final game in a Bruins uniform like that.
Now that we have gotten past the obvious and required respectful disclaimers, can we cut the bullshit revisionist history?
Chris Kelly is NOT a vital, neigh irreplaceable member of the Bruins.
He’s so replaceable, in fact, that the Bruins scoured the earth for all of 12 hours to find a similar guy to take his place. Max Talbot was called up Wednesday from Providence and he does exact same things Chris Kelly does. He’s a defensively responsible bottom 6 forward who is good at killing penalties.
Andthere is one significant difference between the two and I’m not talking about the millions of dollars in cap savings.
So when the all these pundits come out and say that the Bruins are going to have a tough time replacing Kelly on the ice and in the locker room, I chose to disbelieve illusion.
You know what they call Chris Kelly in Dallas? Vernon Fiddler. And they pay him half as much as Kelly. In Carolina he’s called Jay McClement. The Rangers call him Dominic Moore. In Washington he’s known as Jay Beagle. In fact there are “Chris Kellys” on just about every team in the NHL.
Kelly isn’t some mythical penalty killing unicorn. He’s an aging roleplayer who Bruins coach Claude Julien leans on way too much given his usefulness. Case in point, there is no way Kelly should have been centering the 2nd line if Patrice Bergeron missed a game, but that was what Julien was going to do if Bergeron missed time due to his sons birth. That’s a situation tailor made for Ryan Spooner to prove he’s a top 6 forward, but in Claude’s world it’s just a chance to give his blankie Kelly more TOI.
Not any more. Now Claude has no choice but to use the younger players on this team consistently and TEACH them how to be more responsible. No more Chris Kelly hanging over their heads like an offensively inept Sword of Damocles.
And please, don’t try and make a case for Kelly being indispensable because of his role “in the room”. In case you missed it, Chris Kelly was “in the room” all last season when this team looked like it was quitting down the stretch and Reilly Smith and Dougie Hamilton channeled Thelma and Louise. There have been more impactful “glue” guys in that locker room than Kelly and now is a chance for someone else to step up and fill this role.
“But Mike, Kelly was an assistant captain!!” Hey if you want to judge leadership by embroidery alone be my guest. I know Steve won’t mind.
Yes Kelly had that “A” on his jersey for some valid reasons, but lets find a less ceremonial candidate for it now. (See: Krejci, David)
You want the straight truth? Chris Kelly’s an aging overpaid 4th liner. He hasn’t been a real difference maker since he signed his bloated extension. His coaches reliance on him was retarding the development of this team’s future and his injury, while unfortunate, is a long term plus for this team.