Forever to be linked with former Wild defenseman Brent Burns, Charlie Coyle has been the the only thing that has paid off for Chuck Fletcher and the Minnesota Wild since the trade was finalized in 2011. Coyle, for Fletcher, was the target in the trade as the Wild needed to get younger. “There is no way this deal gets done if Charlie Coyle’s not in it,” Fletcher revealed in his post-trade press conference.
Yet, as we sit here now 7 years removed from the draft day deal that brought Coyle to Minnesota, we are still left wanting more. Looking back on Central Scouting’s Gary Eggelston’s report on him, I can’t help but feel like he completely nailed exactly what Coyle is today.
Charlie is a skilled forward, who can play a power game as well as a finesse game. He has very good size and athleticism. He has very soft hands and is a confident puck handler. His passes are accurate and proper for the situation. He has a long and strong stride and beats defenders with his acceleration and puck skills. He has a very good wrist shot to support his passing skills in his role as a major contributor to his team’s offense. He should, however, shoot the puck more than he does to take advantage of his excellent shot.”
Coyle has become a very fine NHL player. He’s solid as he does many things on both ends of the ice that helps a team win. But as with many of the Wild’s draft picks before him, and after him, the only really adjective to describe number 3 in green is “solid.” Not dynamic. Not exciting. Certainly not a prolific scorer. However, “solid” is very respectable in and of itself - you know what Charlie is going to bring every single night.
If there’s one player the Wild can really sell high on, it has to be Coyle that makes the most sense.
Coyle has done well for himself since officially becoming a member of the Wild in 2013 after the NHL Lock-out was finally settled. With 74 goals and 122 assists, he’s earned himself the solid five-year, $16 million deal signed in 2015. Not only did Wild management like what they saw in the 6-foot, 2-inch forward that had position flexibility, but they were investing in him through his Restricted Free Agency years. He has rewarded the Wild with great durability by playing in 70 percent or more of the games in each of his last 5 seasons with the club and that includes all 82 games in the last 3 seasons.
There’s something to be said for being on the ice every single night. He is the good soldier for the team, a likable guy, and one you want to root for.
He can show flashes of real brilliance when he uses his large frame to shield the puck, and apply a strong forecheck. Coyle is deft passer and playmaker that has good speed to boot. But far too often, those are just flashes as he can go on elongated cold spells. This season alone he went on a 12-game goalless drought. That drought was also preceded by a 6 game drought to start the season, and an 8-game drought after that. He finished the regular season with two more droughts in February and March that lasted for 12 games and 11 games respectively. The Massachusettes-native had just 11 goals and 37 points to end the 2017-18 campaign, a far cry from 21 goals he notched two seasons ago, and he was well short of the 51 points from last year.
Like Luke Skywalker saw the good in Darth Vader, we can see there is scoring in Charlie Coyle. Last season, he notched a career-high in assists and points as he eclipsed the 50-point mark for the first time. The “Big Omelette” scored 21 goals the season before that. For his career in the NHL prior to this season, Coyle has notched a respectable 1.63 points per 60 minutes of ice time. It’s not elite by any stretch of the imagination, but again, solid.
This season has been rough. His shooting percentage has gone down considerably from 11.8 percent last year to 9.4 percent this season. With 11 goals, and two of them being of the empty-net variety, that’s rough. It’s not helping his production either when you see that he’s shooting nearly half a shot per game less than he did in the year prior. Charlie could use a change of scenery.
The new GM will need to shake up the core of this team. The Wild may have strong veterans like Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, and Ryan Suter that must, and often do, perform with relative consistency. But the Wild were only going to go as far as the crop of young guys could bring them. The Wild was banking on Granlund, Zucker, Coyle and Niederreiter to develop into bonafide studs.
Mikael Granlund took years and a position change to finally show exactly the potential he showed when he was drafted. He just got paid with a three-year $5.75 million deal, and he followed up a breakout 69 point season with a solid 67 points while missing 7 games due to injury. Nino Niederreiter, acquired through trade, is another solid player that makes positive things happen on the ice. He got paid with a new 5-year deal for $5.25 million contract this last offseason after posting three straight seasons with 20+ goals. He’s one of hte few players that will go to the crease, and plays the net-front area on the power play. Nino was hampered by injury, but with health and tweaks to his playing time, could have a shot at surpassing 30 goals. Jason Zucker has been on a breakout tear since Boudreau took over. Zucker needed a coaching change in the worst way and provides some necessary speed to an otherwise slow Wild team.
Any one of those players in that young group could have a case made to be traded. Mainly, those players aren’t young anymore. At some point a prospect, if he doesn’t produce, becomes suspect. Coyle has been a tease for a lot of years now with the full support of the coaching staff to assert himself and become a star. Maybe it just isn’t in him to play a power forward style and take the abuse. That’s fine, but the Wild need players that can be that kind of player. Coyle’s contract makes a trade move easy. At a friendly AAV of $3.2 million plus his size, he will be coveted by other franchises. And with Fletcher unwilling to pull a trigger on a deal that involved Coyle, maybe a new GM with absolutely zero player loyalties makes him the sacrificial lamb.