The Wild’s core of young players have aged another year, and here we are once again begging for answers. Will they ever get over the hump? Or will we continue to hear about the potential that each player has? The one player that you continue to hear this narrative around is Charlie Coyle. After each of the last 6 playoff appearances has ended, there has been optimism revolving around the Wild forward, but he continues to leave fans wanting more. Over each of his first 5 NHL regular seasons, Coyle increased his points total from the season before. Scoring 14 points in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season earned him a couple of 5th place votes for the Calder Memorial trophy. Between 2014-15 season through the 16-17 season, he didn’t miss a single game. He played in all 82 games in each season while maintaining a steady increase in point total and seemingly developing into a possible 60-70 point player in the NHL.
This year he took a major step back. It began when he was on the wrong end of a Jared Spurgeon shot that hit Coyle in the back of the leg and sidelined him for 16 games. One might attribute his decline in production to missing nearly 20 percent of the season but he still was only on a 46 point average over an 82 game season had he stayed healthy. This was disappointing considering his 56 points in 2016-17, and his ability to take over games early in the year.
While Craig Leipold continues his search for the third general manager in the franchise’s history, the future of some of the current players remain unknown. Charlie Coyle is definitely one of the players in this group. Will the new GM see optimism in Coyle’s game? Will he look at Coyle’s playoff performances the last 3 seasons to determine if he is a good fit in Minnesota? Will he look at Coyles favorable contract at only $3.2M for two more seasons and try to see how much value Coyle has in a trade? The new GM will have his hands full, and a big decision will have to be made.
It’s unfortunate for some players, but they are often evaluated at how they perform in the playoffs, no matter how well they played in the regular season. Take Toronto Maple Leaf Jake Gardiner for example. Gardiner was among the best 5-on-5 defensemen in the league during the regular season in terms of point production. At even strength Gardiner was 6th in the league among defensemen with 37 points. In game 7 of the Maple Leafs/Bruins first round series this year Jake Gardiner was -5 and was tormented by the Maple Leafs fan base. Maple Leafs nation wanted Gardiner out of Toronto based on that one game. The point I am trying to make is that no matter how good of a regular season a player has, if they don’t get it done in the playoffs, that often becomes their reputation.
This unfortunately is the case for Coyle as well. Even though, as mentioned earlier, he didn’t have as good of a regular season as he had the last couple of seasons, Coyle still did not contribute in any way, shape, or form in the postseason. He has 6(!!) points in his last 26 playoff games, which leaves a lot to be desired. In his defense, (if you choose to defend his lack of production) only a couple players on the Wild have really performed well the last 26 playoff games. The Wild were manhandled and embarrassed by the superior Winnipeg Jets in the first round and Coyle was held off the score sheet in all five games. However, the playoff series is not the only part of the season that gets considered for the player evaluation so let’s take a look at Coyle’s season as a whole.
Postseason performance carries a lot of weight but often times is a small sample size to get a good gauge of how good or bad a players’ season was. So let’s take a look at the regular season for Coyle. At even strength, Coyle was not far off from his previous season in terms of points per game. NaturalStatTrick.com has Coyle at .50 points per game at even strength for this season and last year’s clip was at .57 points per game. Even though, it was a decline, his production at even strength wasn’t that much below last season. However, his corsi for% and scoring chance for% numbers with and without certain players are simply alarming. A significant amount of players had higher corsi, and scoring chance for percentages without Coyle on the ice than time on ice that they shared.
Among the forwards that played 100 minutes or more of even strength time on ice with Coyle are Matt Cullen, Tyler Ennis, Zach Parise, Joel Eriksson Ek, Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu, Zucker, and Niederreiter. Only Cullen and Eriksson Ek had higher Corsi numbers with Charlie Coyle than without him. The biggest difference being Zach Parise, who had a Corsi of 49.46 without Coyle, compared to 42.32 with Coyle. This indicates that Parise and and almost every other forward who spent 100 or more minutes of time on ice with Coyle at even strength were able to generate more puck possession without Coyle on the ice than they were able to with Coyle.
This season certainly was a disappointment for Coyle for a couple reasons. The injury in the first week of the season didn’t help him get off to a start that he, Wild management, or fans would have liked. However, even when healthy, the production declined from the previous years and for a player that had seen steady increase in production over each of his first five seasons in the NHL, it does not help his case this offseason.
With Coyle’s favorable contract ($3.2M AAV for the next two seasons) he should have decent trade value. The Wild decided to go with size and grit, and sacrificed speed last offseason. Speed was something that was obviously missing throughout the course of this season. One thing the Wild should try to acquire through a trade with Coyle is a forward with speed. On the contrary, if the Wild decide to keep Coyle, his regular season numbers will need to make a jump back toward where he was progressing last season. And if the Wild do make the postseason for the seventh consecutive year next season, scoring more than 0 playoff points would be nice too.
Final Grade: C-
Coyle deserves a C- because he did not exceed, or even meet expectations of where he was trending. I think we can all agree that Coyle should be better than a 37 point player, and putting up zero points in five playoff games got him the minus.