The reshaping of the Kraken roster and its leadership behind the bench continued Wednesday with the announcement of Coachella Valley Firebirds assistant coach Jessica Campbell and NHL-tested assistant Bob Woods joining the staff of new head coach, Dan Bylsma. Assistant coach Dave Lowry and goaltending coach Steve Briere, both hired in 2022, will return in their roles.

“I had conversations with multiple coaches and different coaches,” said Dan Bylsma Tuesday night. “That led to Bob and Jessica.”

Hired as Kraken head coach during American Hockey League Coachella Valley’s deep playoff run to a second straight Western Conference final, Bylsma’s ensuing search for his two newest members of the coaching staff stretched far and close. He chose coaches with whom he is both familiar and impressed.

Campbell came on board with the Firebirds during the 2022-23 inaugural season to be a vital part of two straight trips to the AHL’s Calder Cup Final as the first woman to be an assistant coach in the AHL. When the Kraken play their season opener at Climate Pledge Arena on Oct. 8 against St. Louis, Campbell will break historic ground as the first full-time female assistant coach behind the bench in the NHL.

Woods, 56, has served as an assistant in the league over 11 seasons, three with the Washington Capitals, two with the division rival Anaheim Ducks and, most recently, seven with the Minnesota Wild. He joined the coaching ranks as a player-assistant in the ECHL in 1997 and won the 2009 Calder Cup as head coach of the AHL Hershey Bears. He played 13 seasons in the ECHL and AHL.

“I coached with Bob in Buffalo [Sabres, 2016-17, when Bylsma was head coach],” said Bylsma. “I got a good familiarity with how Bob worked with our defensemen and him being able to relate to different types of players. Bob has demonstrated his abilities over the course of his NHL coaching career, having worked in Washington with the likes of [all-star] John Carlson, then Cam Fowler, Shea Theodore and Hampus Lindholm as younger D-men in Anaheim, along with establishing great relationships in Minnesota with [Ryan] Suter, [Jonas] Brodin and [captain Jared] Spurgeon.”

Campbell, 32, caught the attention of pro hockey coaching circles as an assistant coach for Germany at the 2022 IIHF Men's World Championship while becoming the first woman on the coaching staff of a men's national team at the esteemed tournament. She spent the 2021-22 season as an assistant and skills coach for the Nurnberg Ice Tigers of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga in Germany. Her work in Europe and as a skating and skills guru came up frequently when Bylsma was calling contacts to fill out his first Firebirds coaching staff.

Campbell was already known among NHL players as a go-to coach for offseason power skating and skills workouts when the pandemic slowed her growing skills coach business based at a rink in Kelowna, BC. When the NHL announced the 2020 bubble return to play, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Luke Schenn [now with Nashville] called the former NCAA Cornell captain and Team Canada forward for help getting back in skating shape. Word spread and Campbell was designing and running drills for some 20 NHLers, including New York Islanders and former WHL Seattle Thunderbirds star Mat Barzal and former Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook.

“Jessica and I spent the last two years coaching in Coachella Valley,” said Bylsma. “I’m confident of what she can do for our staff and bring to the players. I watched her build strong relationships with prospects such as Tye Kartye, Shane Wright and Ryker Evans. She has the ability to relate to players about their games and what they bring to a team. She’s demonstrated that over the last two seasons, not just with Tye Kartye and the others, but [veteran leaders] John Hayden and Max McCormick, among others. That’s why she is such an appealing candidate and why she’s joining our staff.”

Bylsma says familiarity with his two new assistant’s coaching styles will be a plus: “It’s important to me that Bob knows me. Knows what to expect from me. Bob knows what he's going to get from me as a head coach. And he's excited about that. I would say the same about Jessica. That continuity is really important to me.”

Not to be overlooked or underrated on the Kraken coaching staff is Dave Lowry returning as both coach of an elite group of penalty killers but also as a clear motivator of players. Byslma was enthused after his first talk with the former NHL player, head coach and assistant who, like Woods, also coached juniors in the Western Hockey League as part of his coaching journey.

“In my conversations with Dave, it was very evident he's established strong relationships with the players over the last two seasons. As a coach and PK coach, he is super valuable to me coming in as a new person to have a knowledge of those relationships with the guys. Dave was really key in building good relationships with the players and figuring out how they work, figuring out what makes them tick.”

Along with the penalty-kill duties, Lowry will be part of strategy and deployment of the forwards. Campbell, along with working with the forwards, will help fellow Saskatchewan native Woods run the power play while Woods will key on working with defensemen.

Bylsma is a believer in empowering his assistant coaches: “We all do our coaching in our avenues and in our own lanes, then we also do it together. I’ve got full confidence in what Dave, Jess and Bob will bring to the players.”

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