The Boston Bruins are about to hold open auditions for the vacant second-line spot that opened up after longtime Bruins center David Krejci decided to leave the Bruins and the NHL to play in his native Czech Republic. Speaking at the Boston Bruins annual preseason golf tournament, Bruins veteran center Charlie Coyle said he’s ready to go full Carpe Diem and seize the opportunity to replace Krejci in between Taylor Hall and Craig Smith this season.
“You always want, when opportunities are out there, you always want to prove yourself, and, make yourself a better player for your team, and with the new opportunities, there’s a number of guys fighting for that spot, which is going to make our team better,” Coyle said of the competition for the 2C slot on the Boston Bruins roster. “I think internal competition is going to be great for us and yeah, it’s going to be a great spot to earn and it’s a big responsibility. We have a number of guys who are up for that challenge and up to do that, so, I’m gonna do my part, be the best I can, and like I said be the best player for this team in this position and I’m going to take full advantage of it.”
Coyle struggled mightily last season with just six goals and ten assists in 51 games. The Weymouth, MA native actually went through the longest goal drought of his career, going 28 games without lighting the lamp. The dry spell didn’t change in the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs either, as Coyle had just two lamplighters and just a single helper in 11 games. He was also a minus -8. However, after the Boston Bruins went out and signed three unrestricted free agents that can play center, as well as the wing, in Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, and Tomas Nosek, but still seemed to think Krejci would return, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy still seemed to think the second line pivot slot was still Coyle’s to lose.
“The obvious choice is Charlie Coyle,” Cassidy said just over a month ago. “He’s the most familiar with our guys and I’m the most familiar with him, and that would allow the other guys to fall into place. I know [Erik] Haula and [Tomas] Nosek prefer to play in the middle,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Nick Foligno is a little more of a guy that will move around, so that’s probably how it will play out for him. So, it’s Charlie and Taylor Hall [on the second line], and [Craig] Smith was on that line last year. So, if Coyle can bring some of what [David Krejci] did then that’s going to be a really good line.
That’s the way we’re leaning, and we’ll see how all of the other pieces shake out. Jake [DeBrusk] obviously on the left side third line behind Brad and Taylor would be a good fit for him to start, and we’ll see where it goes for the other guys. We added some good pieces that can move around. I know Haula and Nosek prefer to play in the middle. We had [Trent Frederic] in there at times and on the wing at times. Then there’s Jack Studnicka and how he’ll fit in. Some of that will depend on his growth. He didn’t get to play a lot of hockey last year, unfortunately, and like a lot of young players, he missed time because of the COVID restrictions. But he’s also in the mix. He looks bigger and he’s really going to be pushing for a spot, so I have to include him in that mix as well.”
That was before Krejci told the Czech media in his introductory press conference for his new team, HC Olomouc, in the Czech Republic that he intends to play out the full season in his native land.
“I have a contract for the season that I want to fulfill. I don’t plan to return (to the NHL) during the season,” Krejci said back on August 23. “I am happy to be here, and I am very much looking forward to what the season will bring.
So now Coyle knows that there is a legit chance that whoever can win out and seize the opportunity to be the new second-line center for the Boston Bruins, will likely have a chance to maintain that slot for the foreseeable future. With that position though, Coyle will not only need to do his best to replicate the playmaker that Krejci was since becoming a Bruins regular during the 2007-08 season but also to follow in Krejci’s footsteps as a leader.
“Every year you come in, you want to prove in the locker room and not just on the ice, that you can lead, if you’re not already,” Coyle said. “You want to bring some sort of leadership in whatever way and when you lose a guy like that, it’s not just one person that takes responsibility, it’s everyone. It’s a full team effort and every guy needs that, and that’s how that trickle-down effect from the older guys who bring leadership already, it can’t just be them every year, it’s gotta be new guys stepping up and learning. Those guys lay it out for us pretty well and it’s pretty easy to see how it should be and that’s what we’re going to do. So it’s not just one guy, and I want to be a part of that obviously, but it’s going to be everyone involved to take part in that.”
As far as Coyle being at 100 percent in his attempt to be part of the puzzle on and off the ice, he acknowledged Wednesday that he may not be at full strength until the season begins on October 16.
“Maybe at the start,” Coyle replied when asked when he’d be back to full strength. “It’s tough to say right now but it’s somewhere in training camp, somewhere along those lines. So I guess we’ll see as we get going in the next couple of weeks.”
One thing that Coyle is not worried about health-wise though is ending up on the NHL COVID Protocol list again.
“Yes, yes,” Coyle answered when asked that question point blankly if he has been fully vaccinated
Coyle also said that at least COVID protocol shouldn’t be an issue for him as he, most of his teammates, and his family are fully vaccinated against the virus.