Any time the St. Louis Blues lose a member of their coaching staff, there is worry how it might affect things. As long as the head coach remains, you have that consistent philosophy, but even losing assistants can throw a wrench into plans.
When the Blues lost Kirk Muller as an assistant years ago, it seemed to affect things. The Blues went from Conference finalist to a second round exit.
Compounding that loss was the fact the Blues filled Muller’s spot with Mike Yeo. Ensuing from that was the ill-fated plan to have Yeo as Ken Hitchcock’s successor, but history worked out well for the Blues eventually.
With success comes upheaval. When you win, teams think they can find that secret by poaching your assistant coaches.
Prior and after to Muller, the Blues have been through this before and will go through it again in the future. At least they won’t suffer through it too long right now.
At the very end of June, the Blues found out they had a vacancy. Weeks after firing longtime coach Bruce Cassidy, the Boston Bruins made Jim Montgomery an offer he could not refuse.
After playing just one season in a Blues uniform in 1993-94, Montgomery rejoined the team as an assistant after losing his job in Dallas due to alcohol-related incidents. Montgomery only spent two seasons on the Blues bench, but really seemed to make an impact on the team in 2021-22.
Now, St. Louis looks to another former member of the team to fill that hole. Less than 24 hours after Montgomery was gone, the Blues announced they are bringing in Craig MacTavish as the new assistant.
MacTavish was a longtime player in the NHL. For those that missed his career, he was the final player in the NHL allowed to not wear a helmet.
He played 17 years in the league. He wore five sweaters for Boston, Edmonton, New York Rangers, Philadelphia and St. Louis.
MacTavish formed a pretty strong coaching resume as well. In eight seasons with the Edmonton Oilers he went 301-252-47-56 in the regular season, saw the playoffs three times and made the Stanley Cup Final, with former Blues defender Chris Pronger, in 2006.
MacTavish won a division title with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL in 2012. He also spent two seasons as the Oilers’ general manager.
This gives MacTavish an exceptionally varied point of view in how to deal with the players. He has gone through all aspects of it; be it development, the high chair head coach or dealing with player salaries and demands in the office.
That could prove invaluable for the Blues going forward. If you’ve got an assistant – the guy players are usually more comfortable, or loose lipped, around – that guy can be the ear for Doug Armstrong.
If MacTavish overhears something from Vladimir Tarasenko or Ryan O’Reilly about being upset over contract talks or lack of, he could voice that with Army and build a bridge. Being a former player, perhaps MacTavish would not betray trust, but being a former general manger, maybe he wishes he had that kind of connection on the bench.
Regardless of conjecture, MacTavish fits in with the Blues style. The way Berube wants to play is the way MacTavish played.
If nothing else, the Blues may have some of the most colorful, entertaining characters on their bench. MacTavish, Craig Berube and Steve Ott all had similar personalities as players.
Berube was more the fighter, but they all chirped and they all did the dirty work. When your coach got his nose dirty as a player, they often expect that from their players as a coach.
MacTavish is a feisty personality. He suffers no fools, including mascots.
In all seriousness, MacTavish knows how to win. He won with the Wolves, he won four Stanley Cups as a player (three with Edmonton, one with New York) and made the Final as a coach.
His presence should be nothing but good for the Blues. If nothing else, they better listen to the last guy crazy enough to play hockey with nothing covering his skull.