It turns out that Boston general manager Don Sweeney, at least so far, chose the right local kid in forward Charlie Coyle, whom he locked up to a team-friendly six-year contract extension with an annual cap hit of $5.25 million just prior to the Bruins’ 2-1 win against the Senators in Ottawa. This is just another feather in Sweeney’s GM hat and he could end up becoming the first back-to-back GM award winner and first under the new name honoring former Leafs GM, Chairman of the hall of Fame selection committee and Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations of the NHL, Jim Gregory who passed away October 30.
Remember when media that cover the Bruins, as well as plenty of Bruins fans, hammered Sweeney for trading away the Scituate, MA native, former Harvard hockey star and son of former Bruin Ted Donato, Ryan and a 2019 conditional fifth round pick to the Minnesota Wild for the East Weymouth, MA native Coyle last February? How could Sweeney give up on the local golden child the Bruins drafted in the second round (56th overall) on the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, after only 46 regular season games?
Well, the answer is simple, the 28th overall pick by the San Jose Sharks in the 2010 draft is exactly what his hometown team needed last February when he got traded to Boston, what they need now and what they will need more than ever as the transition from Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci begins. With Coyle at center in the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring, the Bruins had one of the best 1-2-3 punches up the middle in Bergeron-Krejci-Coyle, and with a solid D and Conn Smythe worthy Tuukka Rask behind them, the Bruins made it to within one game of their second Stanley Cup this decade. They ultimately fell short in Game 7 against the St. Louis Blues but that center depth has them built to win now and as they move into a new era up the middle in the coming years with 27-year-old Coyle locked in at such a team-friendly cap hit for the next six seasons.
Coyle has five goals and nine assists for 14 points with a plus-five rating in 24 games with the Bruins this season. He scored two goals and four assists for six points in 21 regular season games following the trade last season and the 6-foot-3, 220-pound pivot had nine goals and seven assists for 16 points in 24 postseason games.
Thanks to injuries to Bergeron and numerous forwards thus far this season, Coyle has had to move up into the 2C and 1C slots and also play on the right wing of the top two lines. His valuable versatility has been on display and his goal and two assists showing in the 8-1 win at Montreal was just the latest example of how Coyle gives head coach Bruce Cassidy so many options.
“You know I feel comfortable really putting him anywhere,” Cassidy told reporters just recently. “He has the size to be a presence on both the wing and in the middle and his ability to get into those dirty areas is something we know we can depend on.”
Again, no one questions Donato’s work ethic and desire to win and hopefully he eventually finds his niche in Minnesota or somewhere else, but Coyle not only is a better fit in the lineup but also brings just as much of, a connection to the community he grew up in.
As the NHL continues to celebrate #HockeyFightsCancer, we take a look back at @CharlieCoyle_3 mic'd up for his puck drop – and special promise – with The Mighty Quinn.#BehindTheB | @Ticketmaster pic.twitter.com/cP9CNWxRtt
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) November 16, 2019
Prior to the Bruins 2-1 win at Ottawa Wednesday, NESN play-by-play man Jack Edwards called him a “Perfect Bruin” and Sweeney expressed the same sentiment when it came to the fit he has on both the team and in the community.
“They’re so ingrained in the community of Boston,” Sweeney said Wednesday with regards to Coyle and winger Chris Wagner whom he also signed to a three-year extrension paying him $1.5 million per season. Sweeney then went on to reference a local child with cancer that Coyle has made a point of being there for. “The Mighty Quinn” Waters. “They’re hometown guys. They clearly want to be here. They understand the pressures of playing for the Bruins, and they’re really good teammates. On and off the ice, these guys walk the walk.”
Sweeney walked the walk again Wednesday and last February when he brought a key piece to the puzzle back home in Coyle.