Bruins Summer Series: Where will Charlie Coyle end up next season?

Bruins Summer Series: Where will Charlie Coyle end up next season?

Today’s piece on Charlie Coyle is the eighth in a 10-part series over two weeks breaking down the core Bruins group of players, and where they stand headed into next season after last spring’s Stanley Cup playoff run.

Nobody could have guessed how well Charlie Coyle would have meshed into the Bruins lineup by the time they got to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The 27-year-old Coyle was solid during the regular season after getting traded from the Wild to Boston in exchange for prospect Ryan Donato, and he certainly eased the burden on Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci with his two-way play as the third-line center. It’s exactly what they weren’t getting from Trent Frederic and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson before B’s management opted to pull the trigger on the 6-foot-3, 218-pound kid from Weymouth.

But the two goals and six points in 21 regular-season games with the Bruins gave no indication as what he’d do in the postseason.

Coyle’s power, strength and skating game translated to the physical, grinding postseason style of play and he busted out for nine goals and 16 points in 24 games while proving to be one of Boston’s most consistent forwards from beginning to end of the postseason. Both Coyle and Marcus Johansson more than proved their worth as trade deadline acquisitions once the postseason arrived, and now the big center has at least one more season in Boston before both sides have to worry about a contract.

That means Coyle is in Boston's plans for this upcoming season and the debate becomes where best he can help his new team.

Certainly, the Bruins could keep him in the middle on the third line and count on the same consistent, steady play with perhaps a bit more regular-season offense depending on the wingers on either side of him. But the B’s could also take advantage of Coyle’s versatility and turn him into the top-6 winger with size and strength that they have needed over the last couple of seasons. The Bruins could push Coyle up to the right wing with either David Krejci or Patrice Bergeron, and the addition to the B’s top line in particular could be interesting given the power forward dimension he could add to a line with Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

It might not mean huge offense since Coyle has broken the 20-goal plateau just once in his seven NHL seasons headed into this year, but he’s also never played on a line where he’d be set up with offensive opportunities like he could be with No. 37 and No. 63. The Bruins seem open to auditioning Coyle for a winger spot at least in part because they didn’t have the cap space to retain Johansson, or to find another top-6 candidate in free agency last month.

Some of it might also be dependent on the development of guys like Jack Studnicka, Trent Frederic and Oskar Steen in NHL training camp.

But one thing is certain: The Bruins don’t want to bounce Coyle between wing and center once they’ve formulated a plan.

“I’m interested to see what happens with the center ice position. If somebody pops and can play a third-line role at center then we’d certainly look at Charlie on the wing,” said Bruins President Cam Neely in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Boston. “Bouncing him back and forth I don’t think is good for him or good for any linemate. But he had a solid, solid postseason.

“I thought that [third] line was a big reason we had the success we did. But if we have a centerman in the pipeline or even on the roster that could pop and play a third-line role? Then I wouldn’t be surprised if Butch doesn’t try Charlie out on the wing in a role with Krejci. So we’ll see.”

Interesting that it seems the Bruins only have Coyle in mind as a right winger for Krejci at this point in time, which indicates they're inclined to stick with the Perfection Line again next season. 

Whether it’s top-6 right wing or third-line center, the Bruins are going to need a young player to step up and claim that role at the NHL level just as they needed it last season. The good news is that with the presence of Coyle for this upcoming season, one of those positions is going to be filled quite nicely by the former BU standout.

It just remains to be seen where Coyle is going to play and whether he can build on last spring’s playoff momentum to realize all of his potential while skating for his hometown Black and Gold.

Key stat: 9 – The number of goals for Charlie Coyle during the B’s run to the Stanley Cup Final, which tied him with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak for the team lead in 24 postseason games. Coyle had 12 goals in 81 games during the regular season.

Coyle in his own words: “I haven’t fully processed being able to play for the Bruins and what just happened.”

The biggest question he faces: Where will Coyle play next season? Will he be the driving force as the center on the third line as he was last season in pretty successful fashion? Or will Coyle be the top-6 winger upgrade that Cam Neely talked about at his final press conference of the season following the Stanley Cup Final loss? All of that remains to be seen.

Where B's rank among NHL's top centers, wings>>>>>

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Extra defenseman Steven Kampfer placed on waivers by the Bruins

Extra defenseman Steven Kampfer placed on waivers by the Bruins

With the return of John Moore to good health and a general lack of tight focus to the team recently, the confluence of events pushed the Bruins to make a move ahead of a four-game road trip next week.

The Bruins announced that they have waived veteran defenseman Steve Kampfer at noontime on Sunday for the purpose of sending him down to the AHL. It was clear the B’s were going to opt for the 31-year-old Kampfer rather than Connor Clifton, who just a couple of weeks ago passed the 60 NHL games played barrier that would also require waivers for him to be sent down to the AHL.

There’s a far greater chance that a team would put a claim in on the 24-year-old Clifton, who has two goals and a plus-5 rating in 24 games for the Black and Gold this season.

The final straw for Kampfer was the healthy return of Moore, who missed the first 28 games of the season coming back from shoulder surgery. But Moore has played in back-to-back games for the Bruins and collected an assist in Saturday night’s 4-1 loss to the Avalanche while showing that he’s all the way back from an injury suffered during last spring’s playoff run.

Kampfer has played in just four games for the Bruins this season as their seventh defenseman after putting up three goals and six points in 35 games as their spare D-man last season. While there’s a chance that a team could put a claim in on Kampfer, the likelihood given his age and experience level is that he’ll head to Providence to stay sharp for when another round of injuries inevitably hit the Bruins on the back end.

There’s also no question that a player being put on waivers that’s been with the Bruins for the last couple of seasons might be enough to also shake the complacency out of a B’s group that’s been sleepwalking against opponents over the last couple of weeks. They are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, of course, but they have needed a handful of third period comebacks after making slow starts the norm as of late.

There’s also the chance that the Bruins need the cap savings associated with Kampfer’s $800,000 cap hit after Moore’s $2.75 million cap figure was added back onto Boston’s books once he got healthy earlier this week.

Hagg Bag Mailbag: Any worries about the B's? Let's hear 'em>>>

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Bruce Cassidy: 'We've just got to wake up and start playing to our abilities'

Bruce Cassidy: 'We've just got to wake up and start playing to our abilities'

BOSTON – It was only a matter of time before the Bruins got burned for playing like they could flick on a third period switch and beat everybody across the NHL.

After a number of third period comebacks and salvaged points over the last couple of weeks, the Bruins couldn’t pull the same trick against the Colorado Avalanche in a 4-1 loss at TD Garden on Saturday night. It was the first regulation loss on home ice for the Bruins this season at TD Garden and it was exactly what Boston deserved after managing just nine shots on net in the first two periods while making some simple mistakes that led to goals against at inopportune times.

“For us, [it was a] lack of urgency. We talked about it the other night, again tonight, some of that is definitely in our game early on. If we’re on our toes, I think we’re cleaner. I’m not going to say that we’re not going to execute from time to time, but it’s been an issue for us I think. Some of the unforced errors — I just look at the play, Grizz [Matt Grzelcyk] takes a hit, [Danton] Heinen goes back with the puck. If we’re playing the right way, we’re in and out of our end. We’re gone,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We go back with it and all of a sudden [it’s in the net]. We win a faceoff to start a period and we ice it instead of making a play. Now we’re in our end and there’s just a lot of details that are working us against us now. We’ve just got to wake up and start playing to our abilities in those situations, and live with the result.

“[It] doesn’t mean we’re going to win, but I think we’re leaving plays on the table because our lack of urgency or understanding that teams are coming after us. They’re good teams. We got away with it for a while here, good for us, right? It’s a results-oriented business. But against the better teams, I think at some point, they will close out games. [The loss to the Avs] was a great example of that.”

The Heinen play really was the killer as it came midway through the second period, led to the Bruins running around in their own end and then ended with Ian Cole rocketing a slap shot past Jaroslav Halak from the top of the face-off circle. Then Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk botched defensive coverage in transition at the end of the second period, and that led to Andre Burakovsky scoring the insurance goal right at the end of the period.

At that point, it was over despite Boston outshooting Colorado by a 12-6 margin in the third period, and the Bruins have to hope that it was a lesson learned at this point. It may take a few games for the Bruins to snap out of some of their current bad habits, but there’s also that overall malaise that might be an unavoidable part of the team’s commanding 13-point lead in the Atlantic Division.

That being said, Brad Marchand spoke for all of Boston’s team leadership in knowing that the current state of being for the Black and Gold isn’t something that can sustainably bring success.

“It’s a losing game. You can’t continue to go down by a couple of goals, especially to good teams,” said Marchand. “Teams like that know how to win and how to keep a lead. No matter how many times you come back, it’s going to eventually catch up to you. We’ve had that, especially early on [in games]. We tend to be much better when we’re behind. I think then it’s a bit of a wakeup call and we all have to play good in order to come back.

“But we have to play that way from the first shift of the first period. If you want to win, if you want to be a good team and if you want to have a chance in the playoffs, you have to be able to do that all game along. It’s tough sometimes because the season can get long. That’s no excuse. We have to realize the mistakes that we’re making and improve if want to continue to get better. That’s what good teams do.”

It would behoove the Bruins to get things in order quickly with a slate of important games over the next week including a mid-week tilt with the Washington Capitals, and a pair of divisional games against Tampa Bay and Florida later on in the week. But there really isn’t any worry coming from the B’s about anybody distantly trailing them in the standings right now while 8-1-1 in their last 10 games overall.

Instead it’s about the Bruins themselves becoming the best hockey team that they can be and getting back into a groove where they are paying attention to details and doing the little things that lead to winning hockey.  

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