As Brent Burns racks up Norris finalist nominations and an award, continues to put up record shooting numbers and dominate play with a Stanley Cup contender, Wild fans must look at Charlie Coyle like that Christmas gift from that aunt you never liked that sits in the closet. It was a time and place for something wonderful. It became a a shoe-buffer.
Coyle has never been bad. He’s carved out pretty much a third-line role. He’s floated between center and wing for years, playing both capably. And yet you see the size and speed and hands and you wonder how it’s amounted only one season where he averaged more than a point every two games. There is a feeling of something missed.
What’s particularly galling, is that at 6-3, 220 pounds, Coyle has never managed to put up more than two shots per game in any season. He’s come close only once. With that size and mobility, Coyle should be able to get wherever he wants in the offensive zone. He should be a player who can create his own shot consistently, and yet he’s been subservient to whoever his linemates are.
It’s more infuriating because Coyle has a great shot and scored at a high-percentage. He has a career SH% of 11.2. That’s probably due to Coyle mostly scoring from in close when he does get to the net, as his stature suggests he should at a regular basis. But why isn’t he there more often? Just for giggles, Burns has been averaging three to four shots per game and he plays on defense.
In essence, Coyle is the Wild’s Brandon Saad. You’ll see a game here or there where he looks unplayable. And then you wonder why it isn’t there for the next five games.
But unlike Saad, Coyle hasn’t been identified as a staple of future Wild teams. The Wild brought in a new GM this past summer in Paul Fenton. His charge will be to get the Wild to be something more than the background scenery they’ve been…well, since they came into existence. What the Wild lack, and have lacked, it a front-line forward or d-man, at least one to pair with Ryan Suter. They also lack cap space.
Coyle probably doesn’t get them either. But if he’s going to have trade value, it’s probably at the deadline. Coyle has another year left on his deal after this one, and he’s one of the non-crippling cap hits on the Wild (all too rare). He’s only at $3.2M. If there’s a GM that thinks he can unlock the 55+ point player Coyle can and should be, that’s a snip.
Fenton is going to want to make changes somewhere. The Wild need some sort of shakeup, or at least that was the thinking after yet another first-round exit last year. The Dubnyk De Soleil has never gotten them much, and there has to be more. There also isn’t a lot of flexibility. Parise and Suter aren’t going anywhere. Neither are Dumba, Spurgeon. Niederreiter is over $5M and would be harder to move, and is also signed until 2022. Jason Zucker was just re-upped. They’ve tried to move Jonas Brodin for years, with not much luck.
Coyle will either disappoint and be moved along as a show of trying to improve things, or at least change them. Or he’ll turn it around finally, and prove to be a pillar of whatever the Wild are going to be. He’s still only 26. Either way, the waiting is almost over for Wild fans and Coyle.
Game #21 Preview Suite