The pain of Charlie Coyle’s shocking elimination in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in April hasn’t abated.
The 31-year-old center does not expect the situation to settle down anytime soon.
“Honestly, I don’t think we’ll ever get over this,” Coyle said during an appearance WEEI’s “Gresh and Fauria” show during Tuesday’s WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio telethon. “It’s all about how quickly you can get past it, learn from it and move on. Use it as motivation. It never goes away. How do you use that, turn it into fuel to fuel yourself, right? That’s how it works.”
Coyle will need all the motivation he can get in this crucial season for the Weymouth native.
With both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci retiring this summer, the Bruins have a glaring hole at the top of their forward corps in 2023-24, with both centers in the top six vacant.
As expected, Coyle is expected to be promoted to Boston’s squad for the season opener, Bruins coach Jim Montgomery reveals Boston Herald that he plans to field Coyle alongside Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk once training camp begins next month.
Center-mate Pavel Zacha is also due for more minutes and responsibility as Krejci’s back-up back-up, with the Czech striker expected to feature alongside David Pastrnak and James van Riemsdyk, Montgomery comments.
Coyle acknowledged the Bruins don’t have the staffing capacity to fully replace both Bergeron’s and Krejci’s talents and presence, at least on an individual basis.
But if Coyle and several other Bruins forwards can make incremental steps in their larger roles in 2023-24, the veteran centerman believes the Bruins still have the means to develop their already very strong defensive and goalkeeping Tandem between Linus Ullmark and complement Jeremy Swayman.
“They are world-class players. And we will miss them,” Coyle said of Bergeron and Krejci. “We all wish they could play, they’ve done so much for this city. … [But] Those are job opportunities right now, aren’t they? That motivates me and also motivates our team. … We want to solidify the culture that these people brought with them and that’s why our organization, our team is good.
“It’s because of that culture, the way we treat everyone, the standard that’s set, the work ethic and all those little things that these guys brought with them. If these people are gone, how can we emulate that? That’s why we have a lot of people who get involved and make sure that everyone pulls along a bit. Because you can’t replace these guys individually, you can’t replace Bergy and Krejci either.”
While Coyle has had great success as a puck-holding center in Boston’s third line during his five years with the Bruins, his suitability as a top six center is questionable.
When Coyle is in top form, he can eat up time and drain opposing fielders by keeping the puck away. Despite breaking the 50-point threshold only once in his NHL career, he made great strides as Boston’s shutdown center in 2022-23, allowing Bergeron and Krejci more starts in the O-Zone.
As long as he continues to excel in the D-Zone, Coyle could be a useful asset in a redesigned two-way topline for Boston as his offensive skills are boosted alongside proven wingers like Marchand and DeBrusk.
He excelled as Boston’s first-line center in the opening games of the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs against the Panthers, although that feat has been more difficult to replicate over an 82-game span.
Still, Coyle believes he’s ready for the greater responsibility that will fall on him this season.
He won’t be the only one given the daunting task of replacing a Bruins legend.
“Nobody’s going to be a Bergeron, but we can all lend a hand and make sure we pull the rope a little bit more and the guys get on top,” Coyle explained. “We have people who are a year older and have more experience who can bring their own leadership to the table in any way they can and that’s what we need.
“We have new people but also some experienced people who can help. So that’s a difficult thing when you lose people of this caliber. How do you replace them? You can’t do it alone, but it’s a team effort. And I like our team… What if we have to fight a little harder this year? So be it. That will help us in the long run in the playoffs.”
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