The St. Louis Blues are in the midst of a terrible slump. Their current six-game losing streak to start 2022-23 is just two shy of their worst losing streak ever.
Of course, when anything like this happens, everyone has their theories.
Some blame the goaltending, because that’s easy and it’s practically a tradition for hockey fans. Some point to the stars because they aren’t scoring enough or defending well enough of being physical enough.
Still others look to the man behind the bench. He is the one that is supposed to be in their ear and prodding their minds to get the most out of them.
That is true, in a sense. A coach does need to be a motivator and supreme strategist in that they have to make alterations when either the initial game plan doesn’t work or the other team has already adjusted to it.
The problem becomes too many people have an outdated view on what a coach should do when his team is in a funk. If nothing else, they may have an outdated view on what a coach even can do.
Despite the fact that we’ve progressed in so many ways, when it comes to sports, for some reason many fans still believe that yelling and screaming works. I’m not really sure where that comes from.
This is not something only Blues fans do. I think all sports fandoms do it.
There is this perception that if things are not going right, it should be like The Junction Boys. Take away their water and their food and their dignity and grind them into the dust to make men out of them again.
That flew in the 1950’s. It can’t happen today. It doesn’t happen in the college ranks any longer, much less the pros.
I’d like to set a scenario or paint a picture if I may.
Imagine you’re at your current job, but things haven’t been going well. It’s been several bad days in a row and you’re just sluggish all the time and your brain shuts off halfway through the day.
Your work isn’t being done to the specifications set forth by management or the expectations of those above you. How would you respond if your manager just started screaming at you for 82 days out of the year?
In a regular work place, that would be about 1.5 times per week. That just doesn’t work.
These are all highly skilled individuals on the Blues. Say whatever you want about their talent level compared to others in the league, but they are all still in the top 700 players in the world.
They’re also adults. You can’t treat them like children or teenagers you’re trying to scare straight.
Even as adults, we all need a kick in the rear sometimes. However, you cannot do that every single time.
If the Blues have a bad game, or a bad period, and Berube comes into the locker room and flips over a table or tips over the Gatorade jug, fans think that’s what should happen. Even if it worked and snapped them out of their funk, it has diminishing returns.
There’s going to be bad games and there will be bad periods. If a coach reacts that way every single time, you get numb to it. There’s nowhere to go after that.
Coaches in today’s world, especially in pro sports, have to take things on a case by case basis. Perhaps one time you do yell and scream and make them do sprints in practice.
Maybe the next time around, you’re pulling guys aside and putting an understanding hand on their shoulder. One time he might give a guy some instructions and say go get them and the next time, he might need to bench someone.
There is no one-size fits all approach to coaching. That is true of all coaches, especially someone like Craig Berube.
Berube cannot treat players like Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou the same way he does Ryan O’Reilly or Brandon Saad. They’re all at different stages of their careers and as human beings.
They respond to things differently. Maybe screaming at one guy will jolt them out of a funk and the same approach to a different player might set them back.
In the end, a lot of it boils down to projecting. As fans, we are angry at the player or the entire team. Therefore the coach needs to bust down the locker room door and give them the business because that’s what we would do in that moment.
Sports are difficult to master and just as hard to be consistent in. That’s why they get paid the millions of dollars.
If you were a milionaire, would you want to be screamed at and told you’re not doing your job? Regardless of how much you’re being paid, would you want your manager coming up and saying you sucked on those reports or whatever project you’ve been on?
You simply can’t do that any longer. You definitely cannot do that in pro sports.
Find me a coach or manager that flips out any time the players play poorly or seem to slack off. You likely can’t.
The closest thing in hockey would be John Tortorella. Even then, he usually wears out his welcome within a few years and you’re looking for someone else, normally the opposite of Torts.
I don’t want to look for the next coach. There’s this odd feeling that firing a coach fixes things, but the next guy might be even worse.
It had a short-term boost, but look at Mike Yeo taking over for Ken Hitchcock. It was easy to give Berube leeway because the team had looked so bad under Yeo.
The players just have to get out of their own heads. Maybe Berube can help with that in individual meetings, but it won’t be some butt-chewing in the locker room and taking away some sort of perks like these guys are 12.
It’s a different time now. Fans need to progress too and stop asking for locker room tirades as some sort of solution.