After years of paying his dues as an ECHL head coach and an assistant coach with the Providence Bruins teaching and developing defensemen in the Boston system, Kevin Dean is getting his shot as head coach of the P-Bruins. Couple the coaching experience with over 330 games of NHL experience with the Devils, Thrashers, Stars and Blackhawks, and the 47-year-old Dean is in the right place at the right time for a key developmental role within the Bruins organization.
Dean mentioned names like Larry Robinson John McLane, Ken Hitchcock, Jacques Lemaire and Robbie Ftorek as hockey coaches that influenced his style along with previous Providence head coach Bruce Cassidy. But Dean also made it clear that he’ll be his own coach adhering to his strengths as a teacher, and as a coach that will demand the very best out of his players.
“It’s a position and a job I’m excited for the challenges that it’s going to present. I’ve been coaching now a long time. I’ve learned a lot but I know that I have a lot to learn yet in front of me. Those challenges are exciting to me,” said Dean. “It’s exciting to work with the tremendous young athletes we get a chance to work with. It’s even more exciting when I think of all the young talent that the Bruins have coming into the organization quickly in the next few seasons.
“We saw it last week at Development Camp. To me, all those things are exciting. I’m very grateful to a number of people, like I said, the Jacobs family, Cam [Neely], Donny [Sweeney]. Working with Butch Cassidy the last five years was just terrific. You talk about a smart hockey mind, I’m not sure, on the offensive side of the puck especially, that you’re going to find a better one. Claude Julien has always opened his office to me when I’ve had questions. I have a lot to be thankful for at this time, [and] a lot of hard work ahead.”
Sweeney continued with his organizational mantra of rewarding internal candidates with the hiring of Dean after five seasons developing defensemen like Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski, David Warsofsky and Kevan Miller among others. Above and beyond that, it was pretty clear Dean was the best candidate to fill the vacancy created by the promotion of Cassidy to Julien’s staff, and now the search begins for his assistant coaches.
“Development was at the forefront of our decision-making in this process and we felt that Kevin has worked very well with Bruce. I think the continuity there and the understanding what the philosophies of our organization are, and they align with what he believes in in trying to work with younger players, to have all their games rounded to the point where they can play at any different role in the National Hockey League,” said Sweeney. “Kevin is obviously going to be a head coach here at the American Hockey Level for the first time, but he has the learned skill set from working with other coaches and he’s looking forward to applying it in a more foundational role without leaving behind the development tools required.
“He sees across the spectrum. I think that his personality lends to teaching every day and communicating every day. His players understand there’s a trust factor, but there’s also a requirement as to what’s going to be needed for them to continue to get better and he can convey those things. Obviously it’s incumbent upon us now to work with Kevin to find the right assistants that can complement what he does, and what he’s going to have to continue to learn on the job a little bit. But I think the familiarity piece and the development as being the fundamental principal here, those two things really align with what we want to do going forward.”
With young players as varied and talented as Brandon Carlo, Danton Heinen, Robbie O’Gara, Matt Grzelcyk, Jake DeBrusk and others that will be coming through Providence in the next couple of years, Dean will be an important figure in sending players up to Boston in a position to succeed when the big club needs them.
Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs