Don Sweeney continuing to build Bruins future core with Coyle, Wagner extensions

Matt Kalman
November 27, 2019 - 10:19 pm

The year is 2022.

David Krejci is one year removed from his last season with the Bruins, and he had a pretty good season for a 36-year-old second-line center behind Connor McDavid in Edmonton.

The Bruins have just held a press conference to announce the retirement of Patrice Bergeron, who battled through his chronic groin injuries to lead the Bruins to another Stanley Cup win. In a joint ceremony during the 2022-23 season, the Bruins will retire Bergeron and Zdeno Chara’s sweater numbers.

But the Bruins need a new top-line center to pair with Brad Marchand, and luckily they have Charlie Coyle, just 30 years old, around to fit the bill.

The Bruins saw some of their future Wednesday during their 2-1 win at Ottawa. Although Krejci started the game centering Marchand and David Pastrnak, a sluggish start caused coach Bruce Cassidy to toggle Coyle into that center spot for the majority of the second period.

In the third period, Cassidy paired Krejci with Pastrnak, sticking Danton Heinen on the right side of Marchand and Coyle. Again, that could be your first line in 2022, if Pastrnak and Jack Studnicka or Johnny Beecher find some chemistry.

This is a future general manager Don Sweeney pretty much envisions now that he’s signed Coyle to a six-year contract extension worth an average annual value of $5.25 million. Coyle might continue to be the Bruins’ third-line center when their lineup is fully healthy this season, but the sturdy, smooth skating Bay State native is now being paid like a top-six forward and he’s going to have to continue to grow into the role.

Marchand’s presence will make Coyle’s ascension easier in 2022. All you have to do is get the puck to the still-speedy left wing and let him go to work with his fancy moves and his wicked wrist shot. Anders Bjork found that out in Ottawa, as he set up Marchand for the game-tying goal in the third period Wednesday. Marchand hasn’t lost more than half a step since his 120-point season in 2019-20.

Chara scored the game-winning goal in Ottawa on Wednesday. It was his fifth goal of the season, matching his season’s total from 2018-19. He’s no longer playing in 2022, but he’s working in player development and some see him as Cassidy’s eventual replacement behind the Boston bench. The team’s leadership void was filled easily by Marchand, Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy. Is Torey Krug still around as part of this group? The crystal ball is running on a 9-volt battery, so it can’t see the future that clearly.

But this 2022 vision is what Sweeney is looking ahead to from 2019. That next wave of leadership and production should come from the players the Bruins are committing to long term. Even Chris Wagner, who signed his three-year extension the same day Coyle signed his six-year deal, is wearing a letter often and mentoring Boston’s up-and-comers in 2022. It’s amazing that the Bruins have never had to rebuild from the bottom, not like those Senators the Bruins beat Wednesday. The Erik Karlsson-Mark Stone-Mike Hoffman core was dealt away for futures and the Senators became fixtures in the draft lottery. In 2022, there’s no telling if they got it right or are going to be lumped in with the Oilers of the 2010s or the Buffalo Sabres of, well, forever among the group of teams that seem to never get the rebuild right.

Neither Coyle nor Wagner got on the score sheet in Ottawa. It was an off night for pretty much all the Bruins for at least 40 minutes, if not more. They were still able to grind out two points without Bergeron against a Senators team searching for its way. Teams with a lesser talent base and level of leadership would’ve chalked up the second half of a back-to-back, which started with an 8-1 romp at Montreal, as a loss the team could afford considering its cushion in the standings. Not these Bruins, led by the core of the present, and the core of the future.

The Bruins will be in the right hands assuming the future core emulates the present core. Then Sweeney's vision will become reality.

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