It’s no secret that the Boston Bruins are going to take a ‘by committee’ approach to replacing David Krejci this season. Nor is it a secret that Charlie Coyle will be the first member of that committee to get a crack skating as the centerpiece of the B’s second line between Taylor Hall and Craig Smith.
“When opportunities are out there, you always want to prove yourself [and] make yourself a better player for your team,” Coyle said Wednesday. “It’s gonna be a great spot to earn, and it’s a great responsibility.”
To Coyle’s point, replacing Krejci is going to be a downright frightening — perhaps even impossible — task for the Bruins.
In addition to his obvious chemistry with Hall and Smith and status as a leader within the Boston dressing room, Krejci’s 2.47 assists per 60 minutes of all-situation play last year were the fifth-most among all NHL skaters with at least 800 minutes played. The only players with better rates? Leon Draisaitl (2.54), Nathan MacKinnon (2.82), Artemi Panarin (2.98), and Connor McDavid (3.42). You’re talking about replacing elite production.
But the Weymouth-born Coyle seems like the B’s best ‘default’ option, with experience with Smith on the Black and Gold’s third line last season, and a career-high 38 assists and 56 points for the Wild in 2016-17. The expectation is that Coyle will be fully healthy after a knee injury limited him to just 16 points in 51 games in 2021, too.
The injury bothered Coyle for ‘two to three years’ before he finally got it looked at and cleaned up this offseason.
“Getting there, inching closer and closer,” Coyle, who isn’t sure if he’ll be fully available for the start of training camp, said. “Just doing rehab, been on the ice for the last couple of weeks, so [I’m] getting stronger, back to 100 percent.”
There’s also the Bruins and Coyle looking to justify his current contract, which paid him $5.25 million last season and will for the next five seasons, complete with a modified no-trade clause throughout.
That said, the Bruins did what they could to cover their bases in the event that it simply doesn’t work. Don Sweeney & Co. signed natural centers Erik Haula and Tomas Nosek this summer, and also added the versatile Nick Foligno, who can and has played center when asked. The Bruins still want to see top prospect Jack Studnicka make the next step (leap?) in his pro development, and there’s been talk of moving Trent Frederic back to his natural center position.
That group features logical and longshot fallbacks in the event that Coyle falters, but it’s the kind of internal push that Coyle expects to bring the best out of everyone in training camp and beyond.
“There’s a number of guys who are going to be fighting for that spot internally, which will make our team better,” Coyle acknowledged. “I think that internal competition is going to be great for us.
“I’m gonna do my part and work as I can to be the best player I can for this team. And if it’s in that [second-line center] position, I’m going to take full advantage of it.”
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.