Acquiring Charlie Coyle a smart move by Bruins
The Bruins’ worldwide search to add some bona fide beef on David Krejci’s wing, or perhaps shore up their third-line center spot, appears to have led all the way to the South Shore Kings.
Charlie Coyle, favorite son of East Weymouth, ex-King, and a former Boston University Terrier, will wear a Spoked-B for the remainder of this season and likely at least the year remaining on his contract ($3.2 million cap hit) after being dealt Wednesday in a swap that sent ex-Harvard standout Ryan Donato to Minnesota.
Coyle, only 4 years older than the 22-year-old Donato, became an NHL regular at age 20 and already has logged 479 NHL games and put up 242 points. He is a stud in terms of size (6 feet 3 inches, 220 pounds), which easily would make him the biggest body on the club’s top two lines — if that is where coach Bruce Cassidy spots him.
A natural center, Coyle is also a capable right winger, and likely will make his Black and Gold debut Saturday in St. Louis on Krejci’s right side and with Jake DeBrusk on the left.
Cassidy also will have the option to have Coyle anchor a third line, with any variety of wingers, including Joakim Nordstrom, David Backes, Danton Heinen, or recent call-up Karson Kuhlman.
If that sounds like a lot of options, then that’s the point behind the move by Boston general manager Don Sweeney. He had to surrender Donato’s booming shot and boundless promise, along with a conditional fifth-round draft pick, but he obtained a dependable, proven plug-and-play forward who finally might provide stability to what has been the club’s shaky middle six contingent of forwards.
Absent any immediate follow-up moves by Sweeney, it’s the No. 2 line with Krejci where Coyle has the best chance of making an impact. We were saying precisely the same thing this time a year ago when Sweeney swooped in and filched Rick Nash from the Rangers to be Krejci’s righthand/right wing man.
Nash, as it turned out, soon suffered a concussion and was lost for the final three weeks of the regular season. His absence, in part, factored into Donato’s decision to leave Harvard late in his junior season and join the Bruins for what was widely projected to be a long run with his hometown team. That run ended some 48 weeks later, with the Bruins figuring Coyle increases their chance to make a legit run at the Stanley Cup when the playoffs begin in the second week of April.
Coyle is fast. He has size. He has moderate touch — 91 lifetime goals — and isn’t shy about work along the boards or trying to scoot through traffic in the offensive zone. The latter two elements, board work and sandpaper, were areas where Donato clearly needed to show improvement. After only a 46-game NHL sample, it was way too soon to know if he’ll improve those parts of his game. If so, he could prove to be dangerous scorer.
But the bigger danger for the Bruins, here at the start of the fourth and final semester, was that they would show up in Round 1 against, say, Tampa Bay or Toronto, and not stand a pee-wee’s chance of making it to Round 2. They spent the full season auditioning everyone but the Righteous Brothers to find the right tone on the second line and nothing caught their ear or the back of the net.
Such are the realities of the big league biz. Maybe Donato blossoms into the 30-goal guy Coyle has never been. That’s certainly the Wild’s wildest dream. But on a day when the Bruins also sent out renewal notices to their season ticket-holders, it was painfully, glaringly obvious that Sweeney had to pull off something to bolster the club’s overall offensive output.
The Bruins squeezed by Toronto in Round 1 last year with an ineffective, concussion-addled Nash on float control. They then won the opener against the Lightning in Round 2, only to have Steven Stamkos and Sons run the table on them over the next four. It could happen again in this playoff season, but adding Coyle is a smart, calculated attempt to avoid it.
Sweeney delivered as needed, and now we’ll find out if Coyle is up to the task.
The Wild, with ex-BU forward Paul Fenton their new GM this season, have been a mess of late, particularly since the recent loss of Mikko Koivu to knee surgery.
Coyle, too, has been very spotty, though he had looked more comfortable until Fenton picked up 25-year-old pivot Victor Rask in a January trade with Carolina. Coach Bruce Boudreau then flipped Coyle out of center and to the wing, where he wasn’t nearly as effective as he was at pivot.
If Coyle is Krejci’s wing man, he’ll be working with one of the game’s top pivots, though Krejci’s overall asset package hasn’t been at full value the last couple of years with the bold success of the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak top trio. That line has grabbed all the headlines while Krejci has been the center of the Hundred Pounds of Clay Line, doing his best to mold something out of an incessant march of right wing and left wing candidates.
DeBrusk, with a goal in each of the last five games (including one against Vegas Wednesday night), finally looks as if he has developed some kismet with Krejci, and much to his credit, he has proven he can play either wing. If Coyle can fit there and give that line game-to-game goal scoring gravitas, then he stands to be a game changer.