Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Blues have taken on identity of their coach

Berube's honest approach, tough love position, 
being strong communicator appreciated by players

ST. LOUIS -- A proud veteran player, David Perron wasn't pleased with his benching in December.

But in looking back on the time where the Blues winger was scratched for a Dec. 9 home game against the Vancouver Canucks, Perron understands where his coach of 20 days at the time was coming from and the coach who is leading the Blues into the second round of the Western Conference playoffs beginning Thursday against the Dallas Stars is now.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues interim coach Craig Berube (top) watches the action during the first
round against the Winnipeg Jets in Game 1.

"I don't think I had a conversation with a coach like that before," Perron said of interim coach Craig Berube who took over for the fired Mike Yeo on Nov. 19. "It was very interesting, but it was good. He was open to it obviously. He took it well, I took it well, we moved on. I think he understands where I was at and all that."

It was simple, pointed and direct, and it ended there. Message delivered, message accepted.

This is who Berube is, and this the communicator he was when he stepped into the position and this is who he will continue to be, a straight shooter who will pull no punches, tell you when you need to get into high gear but also be the first to pat you on the back and say, 'Great job.'

"All assistant coaches are a little different when they go to be a head coach, but he's very approachable," said Blues center Brayden Schenn, who played under Berube in Philadelphia. "He's not afraid to tell you "Good job," "Get it going." "How's your day going?" He's around the locker room, he's easy to talk to. Guys obviously love playing for him and he's obviously turned the season around."

Berube isn't afraid to crack the whip, no matter if it's a veteran skater or a younger guy. Sometimes, that tough love may not be what you want to hear but in the end, it's what's best for all.

"It's been a good fit for everyone," said Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz, who has scored the past four Blues playoff goals, including a hat trick in Game 6 against Winnipeg. "I don't know if I can necessarily pinpoint one thing, but we've had a lot of fun coming to the rink. Obviously it's a little more exciting when you're winning games. It's funner to come, but I think we're doing a good job of taking it one day at a time. I think we don't get too high or low, which is important, especially this time of year.

"He keeps you honest and that's definitely what you want. You want a guy that knows when you can give more and knows when you're at your best. He definitely holds guys accountable."

Looking at Berube's playing career and the numbers tell you all you need to know. He played in 1,054 regular-season games for the Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, Washington Capitals and New York Islanders and another 89 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 159 points (61 goals, 98 assists) won't jump out, but the 3,149 regular-season penalty minutes will, along with the 211 in the postseason.

So when Berube tells it like it is, it comes from the experience of those that told him the bold truth during his playing days, with a touch of tough love. Being a great communicator is essential to his success.

"Yeah I have for the most part," Berube said. "Obviously there are times where I could probably do a better job, like reaching out to everyone. That's not always the case. I think players, I know when I played, you just like to be told the truth. You just liked things direct, I did anyhow, and that's the way I do it. I'm not saying it's the right way or the wrong way, (but) that's the way I do it.

"... It's like anything, you've got to be told if you're doing things and you've got to be told if you're not doing things right, and how they should be done."

Perron got his kick in the pants, and in the next game against Florida two nights later, he scored twice and put up 46 points (23 goals, 23 assists) in 57 games, his highest goal total since a career-high 28 with Edmonton in 2013-14.

"I think we had the identity in us, but he really found a way to let us show it more," Perron said of Berube. "I think the biggest thing is we've had conversations throughout the year. He's found a role for everyone that makes you feel important to the team. When you feel important and when you feel your role is very big, very valuable to the team, I think you're going to play better than somewhat people might think. It's very similar to what we experienced last year with Vegas. Not many guys on the team had roles that they had and they played up to it because they showed they can, and same thing here.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jaden Schwartz (17), celebrating a goal with teammates against Winnipeg on
Saturday, said interim coach Craig Berube (top left) "keeps you honest."

"That's what you want. That's the way the world should be now. You communicate. I think everyone needs to feel like they have a say in something or having a big role on the team and everyone feeling important in here, it's what you need to have success."

Berube has done as much as possible to have the 'interim' tag removed from his name moving forward, but that's the least of his worries right now. Moving on in the playoffs would continue to solidify his name as the permanent coach.

"We're all trying to keep the same routine, same way that we've done and I think that's the only way to keep having the success," Perron said. "Yes, it's more emotion, it's a little bit more of everything, but we have to do as good a job as we can to kind of make it a normal game. That way we can keep going out there with composure, making plays, things like that. Otherwise you just go out there, and you don't do anything. ... He's open to conversation, he's open to tough conversation."

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