Thursday, June 15, 2017

Blues add Berube, Tkaczuk, Alexander to coaching staff

Trio joins Sydor, Ott as new coaches for upcoming season

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues have completed their coaching staff with the additions of Craig Berube as associate coach, David Alexander as the new goalie coach and Daniel Tkaczuk as a skills/assistant coach on Thursday.

The trio of coaches join Darryl Sydor and Steve Ott, who were hired to be part of Mike Yeo's staff last month to go along with video coach Sean Ferrell.
(St. Louis Blues file photo)
Craig Berube, Daniel Tkaczuk and David Alexander have 
been added to coach Mike Yeo's staff for 2017-18.

The addition of Berube and Tkaczuk along with Sydor will reunite the staff of the Chicago Wolves from a season ago. 

Sydor, Ott, Berube, Tkaczuk and Alexander replace Rick Wilson, Ray Bennett and Steve Thomas. Martin Brodeur, who filled in as goalie coach after Jim Corsi was fired, returned to his full-time role as assistant general manager and spearheaded the hiring of a new goalie coach.

Former Blues defenseman Barret Jackman was also added as a developmental coach June 2.

With Yeo (43), Berube, (51), Sydor (45), Tkaczuk (38), Alexander (35) and Ott (34), it's a younger staff moving forward compared to what the Blues had with Ken Hitchcock (65), Wilson (66), Bennett (55) and Thomas (53) last season.

"It's a young staff," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said on the team's website. "... It's an interesting staff, it's a young staff and a staff I think can grow with our younger players. 

"I gave Mike the final say and he has to work with these guys every day, but what you try and do is look where Mike might need to fill in some vacancies in his resume. Having guys that have played the game for a number of years, a guy like Ott, a guy like Sydor, a guy like Berube is really good for Mike to have that.

"I think we all think we know what players are going through, but until you've walked in their shoes, you really don't know. ... Having those experiences, I think, are really good. Just the communication skills with today's players, I think it's very important. Maybe a decade ago, players (were just) 'tell me what to do and I'll do it.' Now they want to know why. It's the 'why' generation. You have to have great communication skills and I think this group has that."

The 51-year-old Berube, who was a candidate for the Buffalo Sabres coaching job that went to former Blue Phil Housley on Thursday, spent last season as the coach of the American Hockey League's Chicago Wolves and led the Wolves to a record of 44-19-13 (101 pts), Chicago's best regular-season since 2009-10, and a first place finish in the Central Division. The Wolves reached the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs.

A coach for 14 seasons, Berube spent two seasons as coach of the Philadelphia Flyers and the Flyers went 75-58-28 in the regular season (2013-2015). Berube also spent seven seasons as an assistant coach with the Flyers (2006-07, 2008-14) and for two seasons (2006-08) was the coach and three seasons as an assistant coach (2004-07) with the Philadelphia Phantoms of the AHL.

As a player, Berube spent 17 seasons in Philadelphia, Toronto, Calgary, Washington, and the New York Islanders and had 61 goals and 98 assists in 1,054 regular season games and is one of three players in NHL history to have appeared in over 1,000 regular season games and serve over 3,000 penalty minutes.

Tkaczuk, 38, spent last season as an assistant on Berube’s coaching staff in Chicago and primarily worked with the Blues' young prospects.

Prior to his stint with the Wolves, Tkaczuk spent four seasons as a coach in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), including a season as the associate coach with Kitchener and three seasons as an assistant with Owen Sound.

Tkaczuk was a first-round pick of the Calgary Flames (No. 6 overall) in the 1997 NHL Draft and played 12 seasons of pro hockey but only 19 games with the Flames in 2000-01.

On June 23, 2001, the Blues acquired Tkaczuk and goalie Fred Brathwaite and forward Sergei Varlamov along with a 2001 ninth round pick for goalie Roman Turek and a 2001 fourth-round pick.

One player extremely excited to have Alexander on board is Blues goalie Jake Allen, who has worked with Alexander, the the director of goaltending development at Alexander Goaltending, since he was 13 years old. 

Alexander, 35, has worked with several NHL goaltenders during the offseason, including Allen and spent the past four seasons as goalie coach of the Syracuse Crunch, the Tampa Bay Lightning's AHL affiliate that just finished second to Grand Rapids in the Calder Cup Final.

Alexander spent five seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Maine, where he coached St. Louis native Ben Bishop.

"Just the NHL in general is an opportunity to work with the best athletes in our respective sport on the planet," Alexander said. "For me, that's ultimately been my dream, alongside of winning a Stanley Cup. I think that's probably the biggest part of it for me is working at the highest level possible in hockey.

"The St. Louis Blues provided an opening there and I think the timing was right. I've been very grateful to be in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization for four seasons now, obviously in the American League. It's a world class organization. I've learned so much here over the years, but I think now's the time to take those learnings and apply it in an environment where new challenges will exist for me. I'm looking forward to that. I think that's what great coaches do, they look for new challenges, explore those and kind of go after it. That's what I'm excited about."

Both Allen (Fredericton) and Alexander (Moncton) are New Brunswick natives .

"He was actually going to university in my hometown and he was the goaltending coach of the midget AAA team at the time, so he would have been in his early-to-mid 20s," Allen said on Thursday. "I was in bantam going into midget and his father ran a goalie camp in Moncton, which was about an hour, 20 minutes away. I wanted to go down and make a good impression, so I went down to his camp that summer, worked with him, made the midget team, worked with him for two years as a midget AAA coach, then I went off to junior and I've worked with him every summer since then (2008). 

"He's climbed the ranks. He was midget AAA coach, then he was the goalie coach at U of Maine, junior A coach, Hockey Canada, sort of worked his way up in the minors and Tampa and now he's with us in St. Louis. It's a cool story on his part. He's worked his way up. We're really fortunate that we're able to reconnect in the NHL."

Allen and Carter Hutton sat down with Brodeur at the end of the season and talked about what kind of coach would work best with them. Allen said he didn't know of the hiring until Wednesday.

"He just wanted to hear what we had to say. Basically that was it. He's known about Dave, but I didn't really know much else until really yesterday when I got a message that said that it was going to be announced. At the end of the day, I was really happy when I got the message that they chose Dave and he was going to be the goalie coach next year. 

"I think he's just so adaptable. Every goalie's different; that's the biggest thing. You can teach certain techniques, etc. But evety goalie has a style of his own. One thing might not work for another. I think that's where he separates himself. I think he can grasp, 'What do I need to do for Carter? What do I need to do for Jake?' He can make it work. He's just such a progressive thinker. He's ahead of the game, ahead of his time. He's always on the ball. He's going to bring a lot to our organization. He's ready to work every day and he has a plan. Once we figure what that plan is come September and training camp, we'll stick to it. I'm sure we'll have great success. He's such a great mind for hockey. He didn't play in the NHL like Marty, but he's very understanding of the game and he's very good on the mental side of it. That's a big thing as well. He knows when to push, when we need to work but a lot of times as well, when we need to lay off and we need to just take a break and take a breather. He's been great at that. He has been in the summers for me."

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