It’s a common refrain, one Charlie Coyle has heard through most of his NHL career. Everyone from coaches to team executives to fans has pleaded with the Wild forward to take more shots, anticipating that a greater output will mean more goals for a team that always seems to be in search of offense.
Except Coyle knows it’s not just about quantity. This summer, he got some intensive study in the art of creating more quality chances — and putting them in the net — at an exclusive four-day summit. Coyle was among 16 players to gather in Tampa, Fla., in August to dive into hockey at the micro level, discussing and working on the nuances of the game.
The week in Florida, and surgery to repair tendons in both wrists, left him refreshed in body and mind entering his seventh NHL season. Fresh off a hat trick in Saturday’s preseason game against Colorado, Coyle is optimistic that he can put an injury-marred season behind him and look forward to a productive, fulfilling year.
“It feels good to get a fresh start, to come in feeling healthy and in great shape after putting in the work last summer to become a better player,” Coyle said. “It was a good summer, especially the time in Florida.
“It was really cool. I was very lucky to be able to go. Playing with those high-end guys was really productive, and I learned a lot. That gives me some confidence coming into this season, and adding some new elements to your game always helps.”
Coyle, often moved between wing and center, has been playing right wing on a line with Jordan Greenway and Joel Eriksson Ek during training camp. Coach Bruce Boudreau is delighted with what he has seen thus far. Rather than speculate whether Coyle, 26, could blossom as a scorer this season, surpassing his career high of 21 goals set three seasons ago, Boudreau is keeping his expectations more basic.
“It’s a really good start,” Boudreau said, applauding Coyle for “the boatload” of shots (12) he’s taken in the preseason. “Charlie is going to be a hardworking guy. If he scores 25 [goals], what a bonus. If he doesn’t, and he’s still hardworking, doing the rest of the things well, then we’re pretty happy.”
Staying at wing would add one more element of stability for a player seeking to bounce back big from a year of setbacks. Last season, Coyle broke his right fibula when he was struck from behind by a hard shot in the third game of the season. He was sidelined for nearly six weeks, and later in the season, he was hampered by wrist pain.
He thought the tendons on the outside of the joints were sprained. Coyle taped them and continued playing, finding out after the season that both were torn and required surgery. The injuries limited him to 66 games, Coyle’s fewest since his rookie season in 2012-13, and 37 points.
“After [the broken leg], you feel like you’re starting over,” said Coyle, whose 11 goals were his lowest total since 2014-15. “You’re just playing catch-up, trying to get your speed and strength back. And then, [his wrists] were getting worse and worse. But you never want to be out of the lineup if you can play. You just fight through it.”
With his health restored, Coyle also has added to his body of knowledge. The invitation to the camp in Tampa came from Adam Nicholas, a skills and skating coach who has worked with Coyle during the past few summers. Nicholas was among the instructors at the gathering, run by player development guru Darryl Belfry.
The group included NHL luminaries such as Chicago’s Patrick Kane, Toronto’s Auston Matthews and Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux. In addition to on-ice work, the players watched video and discussed plays in great detail, focusing on mechanics and decisionmaking.
For Coyle, entering his seventh NHL season, the takeaways included some new ideas on how to receive the puck and get into ideal shooting position.
“It’s one thing to tell someone, ‘Hey, you need to shoot more,’ ” Coyle said. “But you have to put yourself in position to get good shots, and to get your lower body and your legs prepared to shoot the puck.
“In Florida, I learned things that helped me get into better positions to get the puck and get a shot off quick. It was really good.”
Coyle expects those complex concepts to make him a more effective scorer, though his primary wish is to remain injury-free.
“Just staying healthy this year is the main thing for me,” he said. “I want to be healthy, and just play my game.”