When Craig Berube was named as head coach of the St. Louis Blues - sorry, interim head coach - on November 20th, it came after a 2-0 shutout loss to the Los Angeles Kings. In 19 games, the Blues had only won seven times. The team was absolutely incapable of playing for each other, and was as close to incapable of playing NHL hockey as the city had seen since probably 2005. For a team that talented, this was a red flag. Something was wrong.
Berube walked into the locker room and jerked a knot into this team’s ass. The winning didn’t begin right away, but the accountability did. If a player wasn’t playing up to snuff, they got benched, period. If someone wasn’t working well on a particular line, they got moved. There wasn’t coddling in that locker room. How could there be from a man who finished his NHL career with 3,154 penalty minutes?
What did exist in that locker room right next to the accountability was respect. Respecting a player doesn’t mean giving them what they want all of the time. Respecting a player means that you do what you need to do to get them to where they need to be, bumpy road or not. Berube did that with the entire team, and it created a group of players who would run through a brick wall for him.
His motivation and the team’s cohesion is why they won a Stanley Cup in June with the same group of guys who started the season flat on their faces. When the interim tag was dropped in June and Berube was signed to a three-season deal, it was beyond a no-brainer. With that deal came the expectation of continued success. Fans and pundits expected a bit of a Cup hangover, but the Blues decided against that.
They sit at the top of the Central Division and Western Conference with a 24-8-6 record, second in the league only to the Washington Capitals. They’re just the tenth team to win 70 games in a calendar year and they’re riding a six-game winning streak into Christmas.
The big kicker in all of this is Craig Berube’s record.
He’s the winningest coach in Blues history in their first 100 games, reaching 61 wins behind the bench, and getting there in just 100 games - 62 wins for 101 games now. The Blues have lost only 18 regular season games in regulation during 2019. For comparison, the last-place Red Wings have lost 26 games since the start of this season.
All of that awesome Stanley Cup championship swag that’s under your tree tonight? You can thank Craig Berube.