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  • In an ideal world, Coyle would play wing



    I had mentioned to some of my peers earlier in the year my strong feelings toward moving Coyle back to the wing for two reasons. 1) There are signs that Charlie will break out offensively on the wing and 2) Charlie cheats defensively when playing center, handicapping his ability to provide offense. Most of the discussion to this point was around point #1, and there was a lot of back-and-forth about his value as a pivot vs what his value would be as a wing with a few more goals. But I'd first like to take a look at point #2 as we drill farther into this question.

    As you can see above, the system's design is that the forwards are free to rotate throughout the zone as the puck moves, but there is always one forward in the F3 position to be ready to peel back on the back check. When executed properly, the system allows the center to carry the puck deep into the zone and assert themselves on the forecheck, while another forward puts themself in the F3 position. However, I noticed something early on in the season that I thought was a problem for Charlie Coyle. More often than not, Coyle finds himself in the F3 position while playing center, rather than rotating throughout the zone. He is cheating back to be ready to cover his defensive responsibilities.

    We've seen Coyle develop throughout this season. Though he hasn't quite lit up the scoreboard, we have seen him play a good overall game, meshing with his role as 3C very well, and having a positive impact on possession. We've seen flashes of brilliance and a few goals, but we can all see that Charlie has so much more offensive potential. He has played the role of 3C effectively, but I strongly feel that with his 6'3" 220-pound frame, Coyle has the all the tools including size, speed and hands to be a top-6 power forward with a scoring touch. It just has not come together for Coyle in his current deployment or throughout his 4 seasons in the NHL.

    In a vacuum, Coyle would be given the time to develop his scoring touch while playing meaningful minutes on the Wing. That would give him the opportunity to have reckless abandon with his positioning and use his best assets of size and soft hands to create havoc down low in the opponent's end. But unfortunately, the Wild's lack of depth down the middle has forced the issue and pushed Coyle into that role full time. When a player shows flashes of brilliance like Coyle did for Team USA for the IIHF World Championship earlier in 2105, a team should go to great lengths to curate that talent. Coyle scored 3G and 2A over 5 games, playing right wing, in limited minutes. We have also seen flashes of brilliance in his play for the Wild, where we have seen him score at a high rate in the preseason. And of course, we all remember this beauty:

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