Quitting, Spin & Other Thoughts About Charlie Coyle Leaving BU...96 Hours Later

It's been four days since Minnesota Wild prospect Charlie Coyle left Boston University in the middle of his sophomore season for Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, which has been enough time for the story to clear up. When the news first broke there were reports about academic issues which were proven to be incorrect and more information has come out as Coyle and many of the main principles have commented on the situation. So having these four days to decompress and analyze all sides of the story has led me to come to one conclusion.

No one wins.

The only way this situation could have been handled worse is if Chuck Fletcher came out and lambasted Jack Parker for doing a poor job developing  players and then drafting a Terrier defenseman in the second round next year.

No one - Coyle, Boston University, Saint John and the Wild organization - came off better in this. When you leave a team in middle of the season there are bound to be issues but at the same time they can (and need to) be addressed. After three days of seeing how badly Minnesota has handled their prospect it starts to make me wonder how much control they have over the future.

Now in fairness, the Wild and the present management team have done plenty of things right along with admitting when they are wrong. Not many teams would have gotten rid of  Erik Nystrom or Cam Barker (or Nick Leddy for that matter) as fast as they did and they always are trying to improve both the present and future.

Charlie Coyle (photo from Zimbio)
Unfortunately, this is not one of those cases. In the three days since Charlie Coyle left Boston University, the organization has sat back like you and I have and done absolutely nothing. There was not a statement in supporting his decision to play with Zack Phillips in Saint John or even taking the fall and being the bad guy to protect Coyle (a la Garth Snow when Kyle Okposo left the University of Minnesota to sign a NHL contract in the middle of the 2007-2008 season). They didn't even have a press release like BU or Saint John on this.

Minnesota would have been much better off if they did something. For an organization which devoted most of its summer on educating its fanbase on the Wild's youth movement, ignoring a major move by one of the best prospects - ranked anywhere from second to fourth - goes against everything they have been preaching.

Maybe the Wild brass were caught off guard. After all, Coyle was going to play in the World Junior Hockey Championships and then announce his decision according to an interview he had with The Pipeline Show but that's no excuse for the action taken after the fact. With no statement coming out from the team, here's the news the rabid fans of the State of Hockey got on the subject from the top source of Wild news, Michael Russo.

From a blog on Friday, when everything went down:

Also, I have confirmed blog reports out of Boston that Charlie Coyle is leaving Boston University and will play for Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The Wild would have been willing to sign him and place him in Houston, but Coyle's made the decision to play junior. The Wild still owns his rights for two more years and will likely sign him before next season.
And a tidbit hidden at the very end of a long post-game blog against the New York Islanders on Sunday, which was so hidden that someone had to intially point it out to me:

-Clarification on the Charlie Coyle situation: The Wild was never willing to sign Coyle and place him now in Houston. If he left Boston University, he would have had to go play major junior or Europe. The Wild would never want a 19-year-old to leave college for the AHL.
It's hard to blame Russo (and he did a great job dismissing the flunking out myth) for sticking that fact where most people wouldn't find it because his job is to cover the Minnesota Wild first and its prospects fourth. Since he's the top source of Wild information and the brass certainly reads Russo's work, it shouldn't take two days for someone in management to email him and make the statement. Plenty of others (including myself) had speculated on the fact that Charlie Coyle turned down an offer to Houston for an easier road in Saint John and by letting its fans think that, the organization failed in its responsibility to protect its prospect.

However, it's not like Charlie Coyle is without blame either.

Disregarding the NCAA/CHL debate - which with the fall of the Soviet Union is opening the Pandora's box of hockey - academics at a top American university for a student-athlete, the differences between Boston and Saint John or whether or not a nearly 20 year-old is better off going against 18-22 or 16-20 year-old players, I still have a big problem with how he left Boston University.

As someone who has grown up playing hockey and being on different teams, the idea of standing by your teammates has been instilled in me. In fact, it is almost a cardinal rule along with not being above the game. So seeing Coyle depart mid-season and quit on his Terrier teammates for "greener pastures" is tough to swallow.

But it gets worse.

Although the news leaking before the 2012 WJC was not the way either BU or Coyle wanted the public to know he was leaving for Saint John, last week was still going to be the final time that the sophomore would be around his (now former) teammates regardless of when the announcement was made. With that in mind, it's hard to imagine not telling your teammates, your brothers, the decision. Then I read this tweet about Charlie from The Pipeline Show:
Leaving town and telling no one, let alone your roommate, is a cowardly move. Honestly, it doesn't matter to me that school may have been too much for Coyle. I don't really care that he didn't approve of the way his linemate Corey Trivino was treated after Terriers coach Jack Parker kicked the senior off the team after being arrested and charged with assault and attempt to rape. But if you're going to leave and quit on your team, no matter how good or bad the reasons are, be a man, grow some balls and tell them in person.

In the end, we are judged by our actions. Despite believing that Charlie Coyle will succeed in Saint John for the next half season along with Zack Phillips and have a NHL career, the actions that were taken by the Wild brass and him beg questions. For a team trying to downplay the fact they haven't signed their top prospect and looking at the future, how much control do they have over them? Is a guy who seems to be the X factor in the Brent Burns trade - the one who was a lifelong BU fan - have the character to be the best player?

Those questions may be extreme and may be unnecessary. Hopefully that's the case for the Minnesota fans who have bought into the future many times over. Either way, fans and pundits alike will find out in the next couple years.

But for the actions over the last four days, no one wins.


  1. I just don't think the Wild have anything to apologize for here. A kid made a decision that he felt was in his best interests and to me it's as simple as that.

  2. Also, its not like he left and starting criticizing the program or what it stands for....he left them and they tried to make him look bad by saying he was failing out. All he said is he is leaving the team to work on becoming a better pro athlete.