Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Blues coach Craig Berube

ST. LOUIS -- Craig Berube's third season as coach of the Blues could be summarized as to what his team felt like it was this season: close.

It's no secret Berube's style and culture reflects that of his players, and there's a tightly-knit bond there between coach and player. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues coach Craig Berube (top left) completed his third full season behind
the bench and took the team to the second round this season.

The coach was close, the players were close, but it wasn't quite enough, but all things considered, with the Blues losing to the Colorado Avalanche in the second round of the playoffs and seeing how easily the Avalanche disposed of the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Final, one can easily see that the Blues were the only team that gave the Avalanche any kind of resistance en route to the Cup Final.

Berube is 156-80-36 in his three-plus regular seasons, good for a .640 winning percentage, and 24-27 in the Stanley Cup playoffs guiding the Blues, and taking the next steps is his goal after being given a three-year extension in February through the 2024-25 season.

He summarized his thoughts on the season and looking forward:

Opening remarks:
Doug (Armstrong) does a great job obviously of putting a good product on the ice and giving us a chance. So every year I’ve coached here we have an opportunity to win. And that’s all you ask for. Throughout the season, you've got to play extremely well to make the playoffs because it’s a tough league and it’s a lot of good teams. I thought our team did a good job. We went through a couple stretches that weren’t great. But our team battled hard all year. We went through a ton of injuries and COVID stuff. We had a lot of guys come up from the minors and play really well for us and provide a lot of energy and spark to our team. Our goaltenders, we used both of them, they both had really good years in my opinion. I know 'Binner' went through a little bit of a tough time but found his way and played really well in the playoffs for us. So overall, I’m very happy with the team, how we came together as a team. They’re a very close-knit group. I think that we need everybody to be successful, and that’s how we’re built. And I thought that we got that this year. Now, going into playoffs, we were close to Colorado there. There’s a couple bounces here and there that go a little bit differently, who knows, we might not be talking to you guys right now. But that’s the way it goes and like Doug said, we've got to try and improve. That’s the focus, to get a little bit better.

On if this team made strides:
The team made huge strides from last year, I thought. We added a couple of players this year, which really helped our team – (Brandon) Saad and (Pavel) Buchnevich. I think the goaltending tandem was key. Ville (Husso) improved from last year tremendously. And from a mental standpoint, our team this year was way different. We were in a way better spot mentally. We had a real good team atmosphere. I thought that it was team first this year. I thought there were struggles last year of getting that through to the guys. This team here was in a way better spot. I told you guys that before going into playoffs. This is a very good team, but again we didn’t win. So how are we going to get better? So as a coaching staff, we've got to look at things and see what way we can improve a little bit. We’ll watch hockey here down the stretch and see what teams are doing and why they’re successful.

On how long will it take you to get over Colorado, or do you:
How do you get over this? You don’t get over it. But it’s over with, so you've got to move on and try to go throughout your program in the summertime of what you've got to do. You can’t just sulk over it. It’s over. And we got beat.

On David Perron's importance to you as a coach:
Very important. He’s a helluva hockey player for sure. Highly competitive. And a great shot. And can run a power play as good as anybody I’ve ever coached. He’s a tremendous power play player. I didn’t know David at all until I got here, but he’s really grown as a person in my opinion and a teammate. Provided very good leadership for us, not wearing a 'C' or an 'A'.
Very vocal. He’s like a right-arm extension for the coaches in my opinion, preaching the right things all the time and teaching our young guys. Playing the game properly, being competitive.  Along all those lines. I’ve really enjoyed coaching him, enjoyed being around him, too.

On Binnington and Husso pushing each other, but doing what’s best for the team on a nightly basis:
Yeah, 100 percent. It’s got to be tough for 'Binner' to sit there and watch Ville win and keep playing, and then we started him in the playoffs. But Binner (was) very positive about it all. Very, very positive. Very good team guy, both of them. And that’s a big thing. I think that’s why you have a tandem like that and it has success.

On how much do you weight postseason vs. regular season in evaluating players:
Postseason hockey is different for me. Obviously, it gets a lot harder. Tighter. I think some of our guys made some good strides this year in the postseason and learned how to have success. So that’s important because going forward, regular season’s regular season. When the postseason comes around, it’s a different game. It’s a lot harder. It’s more intense. There’s no room. You've got to fight for space every shift. I think some of our guys really understood that and got better.

On if you believe league is going toward speed and skill:
One hundred percent. The back end, you've got to be able to move the puck. You've got to have some size, too. You go against some – obviously the last playoff series – (Nathan) MacKinnon and (Gabriel) Landeskog, they’re hard to handle. They’re big guys. So you've got to have some size, too. But puck movement from the back end is very important for sure. That’s where everything is generated from. The game’s getting faster. There’s more goals this year. Goals are up this year. It’s a goal-scorer’s league. Power plays are up. So, speed and skill are really important.

On one or two things you’d like to see the team do better:
That’s a tough question. Again, I look at it and we’re talking about goals are up this year. I think that we that we can be better, we can check better. I’d like to see our goals (allowed) come down a little bit. I thought the penalty kill was excellent this year. But 5-on-5, I’d like to see our goals (allowed) come down a little bit, that’d be one area of improvement. And then, I look at the whole year, you have some ups and downs. I’d like the ups and downs to be a little bit less. A little more consistency. Night in and night out, this is what we’re getting, this is what we’re getting, this is what we're getting. I know it’s boring. That’s probably boring for players. But you win more. We had 109 points, we probably could have had 116, the way I look at it. That’s a helluva year. It’s a helluva year anyhow, but consistency and I think that we can get our goals-against down a little bit. And we've got to continue to score goals. We had nine 20-goal scorers this year, which was phenomenal. We might not have that next year, who knows? But we've got to continue to score, that’s part of the game, right?

On how close was Torey Krug close to playing Game 6 vs. Avalanche, what missed most about his absence:
If it was up to 'Kruger' he would have played that game. It was a tough call. Yeah, with his injury and stuff like that and with (Marco) Scandella’s injury, I didn’t want to go seven D. It was tough. He was ready. He could’ve played probably, but I didn’t think it was worth it at the time. But power play maybe it would’ve been maybe, right? It’s a tough call. But if we got past that game, he would’ve been in Game 7.

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