What many don’t know is how much Kelly epitomized the notion of the underappreciated, character guy, an ideal utility and depth player who can do a little bit of everything and a few essential but unspectacular things very well. He fit his role so perfectly--in this case, a penalty-killing third line center--that he rarely drew attention. It’s perhaps surprising to learn that Kelly was with the Senators organization for almost twelve seasons, and a regular on the big club for seven of those, including the 2007 version of the Senators who went to the Stanley Cup Final. He received some love for his role on that team, and since then solidified his place as a leader in the dressing room, but his move to Boston received nowhere near the nostalgia as the trade of Mike Fisher to Nashville. We forget how important Chris Kelly was to the club.
All time Sens stats:
The numbers don’t tell much of a story, nor does his pedigree. Kelly was drafted 94th overall by the Ottawa Senators in 1999. There was a time, when Spezza was injured, when he centered Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson, and while his playmaking skills certainly didn’t wow anyone, he wasn’t out of place either. He could occasionally score a goal or two (or three which, ask Shane Doan, is pretty difficult to do), could grind, and was rarely a defensive liability. In later years, with the team’s offensive potency on the wane, was able to occasionally pull off something special.
And then this pretty move, showing great patience:
And then some memories about being drafted by Ottawa (in Boston, ironically enough):
While a second round pick is completely reasonable for a player like Kelly, it doesn’t really speak to the fact that there are very good reasons he was one of the first Senators players other GMs came calling about. While the stars get the attention, it’s the Chris Kellys of the league--the quality depth players--that championship teams are built on.