St. Louis Blues: Craig Berube’s Locker Room Fix Will Likely Save His Job

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 17: Head coach Craig Berube of the St. Louis Blues watches the action against the Buffalo Sabres during an NHL game on March 17, 2019 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 17: Head coach Craig Berube of the St. Louis Blues watches the action against the Buffalo Sabres during an NHL game on March 17, 2019 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Blues have yet to remove the interim tag from Craig Berube’s status. The main thing that may land him the full-time job is his fix of the team’s locker room.

The St. Louis Blues had plenty of problems when Mike Yeo got relieved of his duties in the middle of 2018-19. When the switch was made, all signs pointed to Craig Berube being a short-term fix. Things have changed now.

Berube took over for Mike Yeo on November 18, 2018. If you were only tuning in now, you would think things have gone smoothly since then. Not quite.

The Blues had a short uptick before they still hit the bottom. They were booed out of their own building in December after getting embarrassed 7-2 by the Calgary Flames. Even at the turn of the New Year, the Blues remained in last place. Not just last in their division but the entire league.

Now, with the end of the season in sight, they are in third in their division with the possibility remaining to overtake the top spot. Berube strikes you as a confident man, but I have to think he’d be lying if he says he envisioned this.

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When Berube took over, it felt like a placeholder. There were no rumors of actual meetings, but it was widely speculated that the team was going to make a move on the recently free Joel Quenneville.

Why would you not? Quenneville took the Blues to the conference finals and then won three Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks. That’s not a name you just shrug and let walk off.

Now, nobody is really talking about Coach Q. The discussion is more when the team will remove Berube’s interim tag as opposed to if.

I still argue they should wait. I do not buy into this notion that taking the label off makes a difference to how he coaches or how the team plays. There are instances where that works, but this does not feel like one of them.

However, the biggest reason Berube will likely be kept by the Blues has little to do with what has happened on the ice. Of course, the play on the ice is a result, but it is his firm grip on the locker room that will likely keep him employed here.

Some fans like to pretend that the behind the scenes issues did not exist since we never got solid reporting on names or incidents. If you wish to pull the wool over your own eyes, so be it, but this team’s biggest problem was whatever was going on behind closed doors.

We will never get full details because these players are smart enough not to air their dirty laundry. Those of us that put the likeliest scenarios together believe the issues go all the way back to the change in captaincy.

Alexander Steen felt he deserved it and most think it came down to him and Alex Pietrangelo. Pietrangelo has fallen out of favor with the public, but he is still liked by many in the locker room. The problem was it was many, not all.

Personal friendships and usual locker room cliques turned into a harsh divide that spilled out onto the ice in terms of production, or lack thereof. Berube, somehow, put a stop to all that.

It is not as though Steen and Pietrangelo were the only issues. Brayden Schenn openly had some issues with Vladimir Tarasenko in 2017-18. It was nothing overly critical, but he talked to the media about never knowing where Tarasenko would be, which could be interpreted as Tarasenko not playing within the system. Make of it what you will.

Paul Stastny was also a close friend of Steen. You have to figure he was on Team Steen when it came to these issues, prior to his trade.

Regardless of who said or did what or whose side you are on, it was clearly not a situation that was encouraging team building. It was not a place that talent could flourish. The Blues had good players on the ice, but the results were not there.

In comes Berube, a no nonsense player who carried that same stern attitude into the locker room as a coach. But, he is also a good guy to be around, or so we have heard. His personality does not come out in interviews, but he’s not stone cold with the players. He finds a way to connect with them because he was one of them. Berbue just takes no crap.

That is what really helped with this team’s turnaround. Whatever he said or whatever he did, Berube put a stop to the nonsense in the locker room. It has not been a big thing since they want to keep it in house, but Berbue basically said he knew what was wrong and clearly he has found a way to fix it.

As fans, that’s all we wanted. Those of us that played sports know you are never going to love everyone on your team. That’s not realistic.

You want everyone to strive for the same goal and pick the other one up though. You want them to leave any animosity at the door when they enter the arena and be professional in an attempt to win as a group.

It took a lot longer than many of us thought it might, but Berube has got this group doing that. You can go home and tell your wife or girlfriend all about the guy who is a no good, dirty s.o.b. if you want. Once the game starts, that guy is your comrade in arms and you will fall on the sword for them. That’s what teams do.

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So, while Berube might not have the interim tag taken off now or even soon, it will probably come off. His x’s and o’s will factor in, but it’s the bleach he applied to that locker room stain that might have the biggest reason for Berbue to become the Blues full-time coach.