With time winding down until the Boston Bruins open the 2023-24 season, their roster is taking shape after undergoing many changes over the summer. As part of looking ahead to the coming NHL season, we’ll look at the Bruins’ roster and see what we can expect from them during the upcoming campaign.
Today, we look at Charlie Coyle, who is expected to take on a much more significant role with the club following the departures of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. He will be counted on to play amongst the top six rather than in the third-line role he has primarily played since coming to Boston.
Coyle Has Grown into a Leadership Role for the Bruins
Coyle is now entering his 12th NHL season and sixth with the Bruins. Initially drafted by the San Jose Sharks, 28th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the Weymouth, Massachusetts native never suited up for the Sharks. Instead, he was dealt to the Minnesota Wild in a trade package that saw the Sharks acquire Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Brent Burns. Coyle spent the first seven seasons with the Wild, picking up 91 goals and 151 assists for 242 points in 479 games, and had a career-best season in 2016-17 with 18 goals and 38 assists for 56 points. He also played top-six minutes during his time with the Wild, centering Dany Heatley and Jason Zucker in the early goings of his career.
On Feb 20, 2019, the Bruins acquired Coyle from the Wild in exchange for Ryan Donato and a conditional draft pick. The acquisition provided the Bruins with strength down the middle, and he played a crucial role during their run to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. While playing alongside Danton Heinen and Marcus Johansson on the club’s third line, he played arguably the best hockey of his career, scoring nine goals and seven assists for 16 points in 24 playoff games.
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His strong play during the playoff run left a good impression on the Bruins’ front office as general manager Don Sweeney signed Coyle to a six-year extension worth $5.25 million annually. Since signing the contract, he has quietly become a leader within the Bruins’ locker room. While learning from some of the best in Zdeno Chara and Bergeron, he will now be counted on to become a more significant leader for the club. He has also consistently been in the lineup, playing the full 82 games in the two past regular seasons while remaining largely unscathed by injuries.
Coyle Will Need to Provide More Offensively
With Coyle already a veteran in the league, expecting him to jump suddenly and surpass his career-best numbers offensively is an unrealistic ask. He will likely be given a much greater opportunity this season than he has since joining the Bruins. Star forward David Pastrnak has shown strong chemistry alongside Pavel Zacha, so Jim Montgomery will likely slot Coyle on a line with Brad Marchand. When Krejci returned to his homeland during the 2021-22 season, Coyle was expected to play top-six minutes. Instead, Erik Haula found himself centering Pastrnak and Taylor Hall, relegating Coyle to what’s become his usual post on the third line. This season, the Bruins, as of right now, don’t have the center depth, and it’s clear that Coyle and Zacha will enter as their top two centers.
While it is unlikely Coyle will pass his 56-point career-high, he should come close playing alongside a motivated Marchand and possibly Jake DeBrusk on the wing. Debrusk was enjoying a career year himself last season and would have eclipsed the 30-goal mark had it not been for his unfortunate injuries in the Winter Classic. Another factor in Coyle improving his offense will be where Montgomery starts his shifts. Last season, he started 70.7% of his shifts in the defensive zone (dZS%), well above his career average of 47.8 dZS%. With the Bruins’ limited options, Coyle will see many more offensive zone starts than last season.
Coyle’s Projections for the 2023-24 NHL Season
When projecting Coyle numbers, ESPN’s projections have him finishing with a career-low nine goals and 16 assists for 25 points in 66 games. The 66-game forecast is somewhat puzzling, considering he has been a workhorse since coming to Boston. Further baffling is how they expect Coyle’s numbers to drop that much after scoring 16 goals and 29 assists for 45 points last season while playing on the third line and starting most of his shifts in the defensive zone. The Hockey News has Coyle ranked 217th in their Top 300 fantasy skaters.
Overall, Coyle will provide the Bruins with solid two-way play, although not to the same degree as Bergeron, who is irreplaceable. He should be expected to provide around his consistent mark of 40 points. However, considering his linemates, ice time, and deployment, I will say he finishes with 18 goals and 34 assists for 52 points.