St. Louis Blues: Fragile Handle With Care, says Coach Berube

The St. Louis Blues have been a team in need of a slap in the face. Perhaps they got it from their current interim coach.

St. Louis Blues coach Craig Berube called the Blues “a fragile group” after Wednesday’s loss to the Oilers and this is an excellent first step.

I know a lot of Blues fans out there are facepalming themselves, asking why Berube is just now coming to this conclusion.  I am not sure what team he has been watching from the bench, but this should not have been a new revelation to anyone, especially a coach.

He made this pronouncement after watching the Blues try to sit on a lead, again, for more than half of a game.  This fragility has been a recent Blues annoyance, if not tradition, since at least coach Ken Hitchcock.

I understand that once you get a lead, you don’t want your defensemen taking undue risks and pinching too much.   Getting outshot in a period 17-7 is ridiculous, though.  That is asking a lot of your goaltender regardless of whether he is a Vezina trophy candidate or a journeyman backup goalie.

The Blues almost pulled it off, though, lasting until the last 56 seconds of the game in Edmonton.  The Blues are now 1-5-4 in 1 goal games this season, having only recently won that first game.

There is plenty of blame to go around for this stat, but it starts at the very top with the coaching staff.  Coach Berube and his staff need to recognize that this tendency to sit on a lead is a learned behavior and needs to be addressed as a team.  Also as a coach, he should realize when the Blues fall into this fragile game style and correct it immediately during the game.

I understand the coach calling out his team after a tough loss, that shouldn’t have been a loss, to motivate them for the future but this not necessarily the case.  If this were an isolated incident, then I would agree with his motivational technique.

This is a problem that should have been identified and addressed long ago.  I do like coach Berube’s new, more aggressive forecheck and physical style of play, but this mentality does not seem to ease the fragility of play in close games.

This shell the team seems to crawl into during some games is a significant factor in the team’s poor start.  They act as if the opposing team’s blue line is an invisible barrier they can’t cross.  Sometimes it is due to strong defensive play by the other team, but this does not excuse the other times.

A perfect example of this was the Detroit game.  The Blues fought back and tied the game.  Then, you could visibly see the intensity drain from their play.  It was almost as if they were going to be content to take their chance in overtime, but the Wings weren’t willing to take that chance.

This fragile style of play is a contagion infecting everyone on this team and needs to be cured immediately.   The first step of the cure has been accomplished:  identification of the problem.  Now for the hard part the treatment, is Coach Berube part of that cure?

I am not sure what exactly his role was under the last coach, but it is obvious he did not have a lot of input.  He now has total control and needs to be a little more Keenan like and stop trying to be their friend.  As soon as the team starts to get back on its heels, Coach Berube needs to act.

He needs to bench those players who first start to exhibit these fragile traits during a game — no matter which player(s) he might offend.  I did like that he dared to call out Vladimir Tarasenko for not trying to block the game tieing shot Wednesday, but that is just a start.

He needs to build on this and start holding everybody accountable.  It doesn’t always have to be publicly in his press conference. Put the players on notice that this fragility won’t be tolerated and will be a quick way to the press box.

This season is probably Berube’s last opportunity to be a head coach at the NHL level and if he can turn this bunch around he will have earned the title of NHL head coach, without the interim.  The hardest thing he has to overcome is that you can’t coach heart.  That is why great players make lousy coaches.