Maybe a second-round draft pick just doesn’t buy what it used to.
This is no personal attack on Chris Kelly, and I still think that at the time the Bruins dealt that pick to Ottawa for the veteran center, it was a wise move.
However, in the three weeks since that deal a few things have skewed my positive opinion of the trade. You can start with the fact that a few days after trading for Kelly, the Bruins swung another deal to bring in Rich Peverley from Atlanta.
Since arriving in Boston, Peverley has been taking and winning (61.7 percent) plenty of draws while playing out of position on the wing . To me, Peverley’s presence in addition to that of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Gregory Campbell and even Tyler Seguin makes Kelly’s would-be contributions redundant on Boston’s roster.
And that leads me to my second point — Kelly’s contributions have been minuscule in comparison to what we were told by Bruins’ brass the pivot would bring to the mix. In nine games prior to tonight’s tilt on Long Island, he has just two assists with the Bruins. We’re not supposed to judge him on points? Well, he has won just 50 percent of his draws. He has blocked seven shots. The penalty kill has succeeded at a respectable, but not amazing, 79.3 percent rate.
The trade from Ottawa to Boston was Kelly’s first in the NHL. He says he’s fitting in well and the guys have welcomed him warmly. So if he’s adjusted fine, there has to be more to his game than what we’ve seen so far.
“I think most people might not notice what I bring to the table,” said Kelly Thursday before he went out and had another point-less game with a minus-1 rating and won just five of 15 faceoffs in the loss to Buffalo. “It’s the little things – winning faceoffs, getting in the shooting lane to block a shot, making the safe play, not necessarily showing up on the score sheet. But if I could chip in here or there, like I said, help the team where I can, that’s me having a good night.”
OK, so maybe I’m still just not noticing it. But it would seem to me that on a Bruins team that requires three lines to be chipping in offensively to succeed, he needs to not only do his little things better but also make his presence felt more around the opposition’s net. Michael Ryder, who Kelly has played with since getting to Boston, needs someone to set him up to be effective, and there generally has to be an impact made by Kelly that Boston couldn’t get from some combination of Seguin and Jordan Caron in their lineup.
As of Thursday morning, head coach Claude Julien seemed content with Kelly’s play and he was anticipating even better performances from Kelly soon.
“I think when you talk about a player [being] reliable, you’ve seen him on the ice late in the games, protecting that lead in the last minute or so. He’s very intelligent, he adapts well to situations,” said Julien. “He’s brought in some speed because he’s a good skater, he’s a hard worker and I think a lot of things. I don’t think we brought him here to be a point-a-game guy, but I also think that as he gets more and more comfortable some of those points will come along. But I have liked what he’s brought to our team.”
Well, Julien has to hope that there’s more to Kelly’s game going forward because he’s going to need him as a veteran presence on the third or maybe fourth line down the stretch and in the postseason. He’s not about to knock a guy that’s been wearing black and gold less than a month.
Had I known when the Bruins made the Kelly trade they would add Peverley three days later, I would’ve had a totally different take on the situation. I saw a need to add a veteran presence down the middle in Marc Savard’s absence behind Bergeron and Krejci. I thought Kelly could be responsible defensively and make more offensive plays to get Ryder, and at the time Blake Wheeler, going again. That initial burst of new-team adrenaline that made Kelly, Peverley and Ryder a fearsome threesome in the early going obviously has worn off.
In retrospect, the Bruins might’ve been wiser to parlay that second-round pick into an extra veteran on the back end. Here they are waiting for the return of Andrew Ference and Steven Kampfer from injury while a guy that hasn’t played since last season — Shane Hnidy — also rehabilitates, and a rookie that’s at least a step or two behind Kampfer in terms of development for the NHL game — Matt Bartkowski — fills in here or there with plays that fall more into the prayer category than the proficient one.
Kelly could turn things around here and be the speedy, gritty threat at both ends of the rink Boston projected on the night of the trade. Maybe we haven’t seen the all-out real Chris Kelly. He has 15 games plus playoffs to make the necessary improvements in his play and validate the trade the brought him here. Otherwise that second-round pick went to waste.