- Tim Burke
The emergence of Charlie Coyle as a Shutdown Center
From Weymouth, Massachusetts, Coyle played college hockey at Boston University. As soon as Charlie Coyle became a member of the Boston Bruins, the fans instantly loved him. His heavy and physical style of play is something that the people of Boston have gravitated towards. Charlie Coyle fits in with the Boston Bruins identity and culture on and off the ice. He checks all the boxes of a fan favorite. When Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney gave Charlie Coyle a six-year 31 million dollar extension, he did not give Charlie Coyle a hometown discount but instead a hometown reward. It appeared Don Sweeney envisioned Coyle contributing to Boston's Top-Six Forward group. Unfortunately, Coyle has not evolved into the Top-Six Forward some may have thought he would become at the time of the extension, and 5.25 million is a steep price for a third-line center.
The city of Boston has a reputation for bestowing high expectations for the athletes who play for their sports teams. Boston fan bases are also almost always critical of athletes who sign large contracts with their teams as well. Fortunately, Coyle has not been a victim of any criticism by the Bruins fanbase, and it would be unnecessary. Maybe he does not have the offensive production of a top-six forward, but he has evolved his game in a major way throughout his Bruins tenure.
Charlie Coyle has taken on a new and more significant role for the Boston Bruins on the defensive side this season. So far this season, 24.5% of his shifts start in the defensive zone, and only 5.6% start in the offensive zone. Despite the significant time Coyle has started in his zone, he is a +8 and on pace for his first 20-goal season as a Boston Bruin. The 30-year-old center currently leads all NHL Forwards in Short-Handed time on ice with 64:10 and is a strong 53% on face-offs, tied for 1st in blocked shots among Bruins forwards with 15, and his 17 takeaways are first on the Bruins.
Always known for his strong puck protection skills, Coyle has not committed any giveaways in the Bruins defensive zone, which is incredible, given the amount of time he has spent in the defensive zone this season. Coyle has taken on the challenge of playing more important and difficult minutes for the Bruins, and he has delivered. Charlie Coyle is already a beloved and respected player in Boston, and being a local guy, he will always get his credit among Bruins fans. He is one of our own. But the way his defensive game evolved, Coyle deserves league-wide recognition for his defensive play this season. What he brings to the Bruins this season cannot be understated. It is hard to say a player with a cap hit of 5.25 million is an unsung hero of their team, but this is the case with Charlie Coyle. He is earning every cent of his contract.