By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
With 331 games as an NHL defenseman, Kevin Dean knows his way around the position.
His decade of coaching in the American Hockey League, including his one season as the head coach at Providence this past season, has taught him what it takes to succeed as a defenseman in today’s game.
Dean’s experiences, along with the Bruins’ dedication to familiarity, made him the obvious choice to fill Boston’s open assistant coach position. And on Tuesday the Bruins announced that they promoted Dean to their NHL staff.
Dean was with Providence for six seasons, including five as an assistant to current Boston head coach Bruce Cassidy.
“It’s exciting for me and after a while, you set your sights on the NHL because you want to coach with and against the best players in the world,” Dean told a pool reporter. “That’s what’s really exciting. There’s a number of reasons to be excited. One of the reasons … [is] where I think [the Bruins are] headed and to be a part of that. I’m very excited to be working again with Butch and his staff. And then, on a personal level, it’s exciting for me to be coaching with and against the best players in the world. There’s nothing better than that as a coach.”
It’s taken a couple years but general manager Don Sweeney’s administration now has his stamp on it, with Cassidy, the longtime Providence head coach, now leading the bench in Boston, and with Dean and Jay Pandolfo on the staff as assistants. Once Cassidy moved into the head coach’s office, there was a void left. Despite his continued devotion to doing extra work with the defensemen, Cassidy had to divide his time more because of the on-ice and off-ice duties of the job, and now Dean can fill the role Cassidy formerly filled.
Not only does Dean have familiarity with Cassidy, he’s also worked with almost all of the Bruins’ young defensemen either in the AHL or at development camps. Cassidy gets a lot of credit for the way several defensemen have developed and fit seamlessly into the Boston lineup, for the short or long term. But Dean’s had his had in that process for most of the recent era. The defense position is just too important, especially with the Bruins committed to building their corps with homegrown talent, to leave it to just anyone. Luckily they had Dean around to take the job.
“[I’m] very comfortable with how Butch wants to play, and I believe in it,” Dean said. “I think that’s one of the reasons that he’s comfortable having me is that I have fully bought into how he wants to play. I think he knows that, and I think that’s going to help him and it’ll help me in my transition because there’s not going to be a lot of surprises with how Butch wants to do things.”
The Bruins have a strong coaching staff for developing younger players and competing. Now their next task will be to fill Dean’s job in the AHL. Coming off a run to the Eastern Conference finals, many of Boston’s top prospects gained valuable experience and Sweeney will want the P-Bruins to be title challengers again with a new crop of prospects. Assistants Trent Whitfield and Jay Leach might be candidates to get bumped up. Or maybe the Bruins will look outside the organization for someone. Whichever way the Bruins go, they’re going to need someone that was as adept as Cassidy and Dean at getting players ready for the NHL in order to keep the organizational pipeline of talent flowing the way it’s needed.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.