Last night on his first shift of the game Chris Kelly broke his leg. It was a harmless looking play to be honest with you. There wasn’t much contact, if any at all. But when Kelly fell awkwardly you could tell by his painful reaction something was seriously wrong. Turns out it was very serious. Chris Kelly will be out 6 to 8 months with a broken femur. In simplest terms, his season is done.
If you asked everyone including their distant relatives most would probably not have many great things to say about Chris Kelly’s performance since signing his big $12 million contract extension a few seasons ago. Hell, even I wrote about his chances of remaining a Bruin for the duration of this season. One has to wonder if we just saw Chris Kelly play in his last game as a Boston Bruin.
I would have to say yes. Kelly will be 35 years old a week from today and in this new young mans NHL it’s going to be harder for him to find a spot next season. Also, the Bruins can place him on the injured list and free up his $3 million cap hit which they will most likely take advantage of. I did however feel he was off to a great start this year. He had a couple nice goals early on and really seem to fit well on that third line when Matt Beleskey went down with an injury and the lines had to be shuffled around. The penalty kill hasn’t been too hot this season so I can’t really credit him in that area like I usually would. But certainly he has just looked better on the ice this year than he had in recent seasons.
The worst part about this injury for the Bruins, other than physically losing a well performing player, was evident in the second and third periods of last nights game. The team started to look flat, lacked urgency, and although they continued to put a lot of shots on net they just didn’t have that next gear you’d like to see from the team. A player like Chris Kelly is the one in the locker room that gets the guys going. Brad Marchand commented after the game how that was a moment where he would’ve stood up and said something to the team. He carries the same weight and respect in the locker room as a Johnny Boychuck or Shawn Thorton did before they departed the team as well while leaving gaping leadership voids that the team didn’t calculate correctly. And in a long grueling NHL season you need guys like Chris Kelly who can help steer the ship and keep the team mentally accountable and afloat.
If last night was Chris Kelly’s last game all Bruins fans should be thankful for his role in getting the Stanley Cup back to Boston in 2011. Yes, he didn’t live up statistically to his bloated contract, but he certainly had all the respect in the world from his teammates and the organization. Now it’s time to see who can step up and fill his big leadership shoes.