In reflecting on the Boston Bruins this past season, one of the biggest surprises to me, as a fan, was seeing the way Chris Kelly became a leader and an important part of the team. Better yet, it looks like he will just keep doing well in the future.
First acquired in February 2011 from the Ottawa Senators, Kelly came to Boston with six full years of experience as a Senator under his belt. He'd even been to the Stanley Cup Final in 2007, when the Senators faced the Anaheim Ducks, coming off the end of his most productive season until he became a Bruin--15 goals and 23 assists. His experience was a valued asset to Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, as was his character and depth. Chiarelli also knew Kelly before from when he served as assistant general manager in Ottawa.
Kelly's trade brought him from a team that was, at the time, in the basement of the NHL to the one atop the Northeast Division. But instead of cracking under the pressure, Kelly hit the ground running. He especially shone in the 2011 playoffs as the Bruins made their way to the Stanley Cup, putting together five goals and eight points in 25 postseason contests. That's good for seventh overall among all his teammates for playoff scoring.
Following the retirement of Mark Recchi, the Bruins were in need of someone to serve as an alternate captain alongside Patrice Bergeron. The team decided who should have the A sewn to his sweater in place of Recchi and actually chose two people: Andrew Ference and Kelly. In deciding to make Kelly a team leader so soon after his acquisition, the Bruins felt that his personality and respectability made him an obvious choice.
This choice paid off handsomely throughout the season. Kelly played in all 82 games this year, the only Bruin with perfect attendance, and surpassed his 2006-07 best output with 39 points. Out of that, 20 of those points were goals, putting him in with five other Bruins who also scored at least 20 goals. On six different occasions, he was responsible for scoring the game-winning goal, too.
Playing with a new team also taught him to improve his game in another way by being more physical and defensive. He had career-bests in terms of hits and blocked shots, plus he got in three different fights, which were his first times dropping the gloves since 2005-06. He's become better in literally every aspect of his game since donning the Spoked B.
In the postseason, Kelly provided the big overtime goal in the first game of the playoffs this year. Sure, the 2012 playoffs were not as successful as the 2011 campaign, but he also had two assists for three points in the short run.
His re-signing this offseason has proven that the Bruins are happy with what he has done so far. The contract was made official on July 1, so now it is certain: 'Kells,' as Chiarelli called him, will be in black and gold until 2015-16.
Considering the big season he had this year, as a fan I can't wait to see what he's capable of doing in the future.
Emma Harger is a Boston Bruins fan who likes many aspects of Chris Kelly's personality, including the fact that he married his high school sweetheart, a teacher in Ottawa.