One of Bruins’ top priorities down the stretch? Carving out a defined role for Charlie Coyle

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Is there a right and a wrong answer when it comes to how best to maximize Charlie Coyle’s skills on this Bruins club? 

Well, not exactly. 

The 2019-20 season, to the surprise of very few, has been another success for the Bruins. And yet, the Atlantic Division leaders have still been plagued by the same lineup flaw that has hampered the club for years now — with a vacancy to David Krejci’s right looming large over the club with the trade deadline steadily approaching. 

Coyle’s versatility has been a great asset to the Bruins in an area marked with so much uncertainty this season. 

The Weymouth native might have started his first full season in his regular spot at third-line center, but his role with this club has become much more fluid as the months have progressed — and more top-six candidates come up short. 

When it comes to 5v5 ice time, Coyle has spent most of his reps alongside third liners in Danton Heinen (226 minutes) and Anders Bjork (213 minutes). But when needed, Coyle has slotted up into the top-six, logging plenty of minutes next to Jake DeBrusk (178 minutes) and Krejci (108 minutes). 

Having a bottom-six center with the ability to play up in the lineup and alter his game on the wing is a great luxury to Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins — and the results haven’t been all that bad when No. 13 has skated alongside Krejci. 

In the 108:37 of 5v5 ice time that Krejci + Coyle have skated together, Boston has generated: 

  • A 112-88 edge in shot attempts
  • 56-43 edge in shots on goal
  • A 6-1 advantage in goals scored

Pretty good stuff, and precisely what the Bruins need out of a second line that is going to be tasked with supporting the team’s top line come the postseason — during which the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak trio can expect plenty of hefty minutes and daunting matchups against both opposing top-six units and physical checking lines. 

But — even if his promotion might be what’s needed to slap a band-aid on an inconsistent second line — could keeping Coyle outside of his familiar spot at center actually be doing more harm than good?