Forward Charlie Coyle plays the game of hockey the “right way,” plain and simple. He forechecks hard, hits cleanly and isn’t a defensive liability, essentially making him a favorite of any coach. This year, the Minnesota Wild forward played through not one, but two separated shoulders in the Stanley Cup playoffs. With two ventures into the Stanley Cup playoffs under his belt, Coyle is destined to be among the breakout players of the 2014-15 NHL season.
In his first full NHL season, Coyle was the ultimate utility forward as he filled in throughout the top nine, playing mostly as the first line right wing and as the team’s third line center. Having depth down the middle is a constant that all contending teams need, and, suffice is to say, Coyle as the Wild’s third line center gives the team almost unrivaled depth at the position, but that may not be the best place in the lineup for him to play.
Coyle has been skating on and off with the Wild’s first line since he was a 20-year-old rookie and he has never looked out of place there. Given how well he played alongside the likes of Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu, it would be best for the Wild to define Coyle’s role as a top-six winger. While having depth at center is great, Coyle can be a lot more effective in a role where he gets to use his power game to complement the skill and finesse of his linemates. Coyle’s grit and amazing work in the corners, along the board and in front of the net (the so called “dirty areas”) opens up time and space for his more skilled linemates to create offensive chances.
It goes without saying injuries and other factors lead to lineup changes over the course of the season. A player with Coyle’s versatility is an asset on any team and, having said that, it would be of great benefit to both the Wild and Coyle for his role within the team to be clearly defined early on. Given Coyle’s amazing abilities, he can excel in almost any role, but cutting the “guess work”out of where in the lineup he’s playing is what is best for the Wild and Coyle in the short- and long-term.