Kraken make history with hires of Campbell, Woods to coaching staff

New Kraken assistant coach Jessica Campbell, shown on the bench with the American Hockey League's Coachella Valley Firebirds Photo: Coachella Valley Firebirds

History was made on Wednesday, with the Seattle Kraken rounding out their coaching staff under Dan Bylsma. 

Bucking projections to fill the staff by the end of the week, general manager Ron Francis and the Kraken made their move on Wednesday by promoting Jessica Campbell from their American Hockey League affiliate in Coachella Valley and hiring Bob Woods each to assistant coach positions. 

Woods brings 13 years of extensive experience across the NHL to the Kraken bench and will handle the team’s defensemen and power play.  Campbell’s story is a breakthrough, becoming the first female to hold a full-time assistant coach position in NHL history. She will be responsible for the team’s forwards while assisting Woods with the Kraken power play. 

“Over the last two years, the work with Tye Kartye, Shane Wright, and Ryker Evans has clearly been evident that she’s been able to develop those players, develop them as people, and most importantly, as hockey players” said Bylsma. 

“I’m super excited about that.” 

Campbell’s rise in the Kraken farm system took just two years and was drenched with success, on the development front and in the standings. Hired as the first female to take an assistant coach position in the AHL, her guidance with the club’s forwards and power play opened the doors for Kartye, Wright, and Evans to substantial NHL playing time – most notably with Kartye, an undrafted forward who didn’t even need a full professional season before breaking through on the Kraken roster in the Stanley Cup Playoffs two years ago. 

“We’ve watched them in Coachella take on more responsibility, be leaders, be called upon, and asked to be great players for us in key moments,” said Campbell. “They’re going to be leverage that experience as well, so when they do they get their opportunities to step in key moments, they’re going to be able to have that feel, those touches, and that experience to reference.” 

The Firebirds won back-to-back Western Conference championships in their first two seasons with her on the bench, finishing in the upper half of the AHL – 14th each of the last two seasons in a 32-team league – for power play production. 

Their trademark explosive offense, who led the AHL in goals this season, received 217 of their 252 goals from their forwards – a total of 86 precent of their offense. Both Wright and Ryan Winterton hit the 20-goal range as rookies under her watch. 

Woods’ mission will be to uphold the strong backbone of the Kraken defensive corps who finished tied for eighth in the NHL with 2.83 goals allowed per game, and eighth with 29.2 shots allowed per game, and reform a struggling power play that finished in the bottom half of the league in each of the first three seasons. 

“There’s a lot of potential there,” said Woods. “You can put two good units together and that’s dangerous in this league.” 

“With Jessica helping me here, she’s going to be awesome. I’ve only had a few days to get to know her, but she’s good. She’s going to be really beneficial for me.” 

Woods spent the last seven seasons on the Minnesota Wild bench under Dean Evason, a notable connection with Francis, and handled the team’s defensemen and penalty kill. But his last tour with a big league power play came on Bylsma’s staff in Buffalo seven years ago, when the Sabres owned the NHL’s best man advantage. 

The rest of the team’s coaching staff remains in place. Dave Lowry will be back for a third season, handling the team’s penalty kill. Steve Briere will handle the goaltenders, while Tim Ohashi and Brady Morgan each will return in video coaching functions.  

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