BenFred: Are the Blues sure they will hire a better coach than Craig Berube? (2024)

Ben Frederickson

Like anyone interested in who the Blues could hire as their next head coach, I eagerly read Post-Dispatch Blues beat writer Matthew DeFranks’ breakdown of names that could be on general manager Doug Armstrong’s short list.

The well-researched analysis detailed all the different directions the Blues could go, from running it back with interim Drew Bannister, to betting big on the upside of University of Denver’s 34-year-old sensation David Carle, to trying to wow with proven NHL star power, even if it comes with a dented reputation.

I can’t help but wish there was one more name on the list. It’s the one that has zero percent chance of appearing. The notion will get dismissed because it’s nontraditional and unconventional and would require the Blues to admit that, sometimes, the best way to move forward is to go back.

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For the sake of discussion, what if the Blues ended their coaching search by bringing back Craig Berube, the coach they fired before starting this extended coaching search? How would it hit you?

I think many would approve.

Why couldn’t a season that failed to reach the playoffs after Berube was fired combined with some reflection on this team’s direction result in a surprise reunion? Well, because toothpaste doesn’t go back in the tube. Only 6 percent of divorced couples, according to Forbes, remarry one another. But you know what the ones who do split and remarry tend to say? They say they appreciate one another more than they did before. Go figure.

Berube is still available despite the hockey hiring rumor mill connecting him to various openings including Ottawa and New Jersey. The Blues are still weighing their options and seem to be in no rush to make a move. If there’s a time to think outside of the box, it’s now. It doesn’t cost anything. Just a little imagination.

The Athletic’s Eric Stephens writes the San Jose Sharks landing Berube would be, “a coup.”

“If the Sabres are looking for a coach who could bring more structure to a young team that is craving it, Berube could be a strong fit,” wrote The Athletic’s Matthew Fairburn before Buffalo hired Lindy Ruff. “That he has a Stanley Cup ring is an added bonus.”

And here was national hockey insider Elliotte Friedman on Friday’s hockey-centric “32 Thoughts” podcast about Ottawa’s reported interest in Chief: “I have people just telling me to watch Craig Berube there. ... I have had a couple teams tell me they think Ottawa really likes Berube.”

The Blues can’t redo the Alex Pietrangelo negotiations. They can’t go back in time and bring back David Perron. Maybe they could get Berube back before another team benefits from his services.

When you fire the only head coach who led you to a Stanley Cup championship in order to try to catch a new-coach bump that produces a playoff appearance, and that playoff appearance doesn’t materialize, and other teams are apparently quite interested in the coach you fired, maybe that’s a sign things should have gone down differently.

When the Blues were the best versions of themselves under Berube, the fit between coach, team and fans became as good as we’ve observed in St. Louis sports in a long time. Had team ownership and leadership remained committed to the coach and his preferred style — a style that shows up in the playoffs every single year for teams that make runs — and prioritized roster changes over the NHL’s predictable path of head-coach ejection, many would have bought what the Blues were selling, even if the team struggled through its transition phase. Players, young or old, who can’t figure out how to give the Blues what Chief asked his players to bring every night are not players to be trusted too much. There is no convincing evidence the Blues played this right.

If Bannister is the Blues’ guy, shouldn’t the Blues know by now? Stressing his status as a finalist while also waiting to vet and interview other candidates after he coached 50-plus games this season feels a bit like telling a significant other to stay patient for a potential engagement while you go on some other blind dates. Bannister is handling it like a pro, but if you go back to him it could be a harder sell now than if you would have just made it official before looking around.

Carle is fascinating. What he’s done in the college realm is crazy impressive. Good coaches are good coaches, period, we have learned while watching great motivators and tacticians climb the ranks in all sports. His hire would be way more refreshing than an NHL retread. Except for one. If the Blues could somehow bring Jim Montgomery back from Boston after the Blues relaunched his career as an assistant, that would be an Armstrong home run.

I disagree with those who have decided Joel Quenneville’s reputation-harming negligence in the Blackhawks’ sexual assault scandal should stop him from coaching again. If he gets cleared by the NHL to return, I think most fans here would welcome him, even though he’s 65 now and has not coached a game since late October 2021. Is there risk in the potential rust? Seems like a fair question, even for the all-time leader in Blues coaching wins.

It was former Blues coach Quenneville who caused years of what-ifs here as he won and won and won in Chicago. It was Berube who finally gave the Blues their own championship and stopped the Quenneville wondering. That makes it a little hard to square the idea of Quenneville, or anyone else, automatically being a better answer for the Blues than Berube. We all saw what Chief can and did do with a roster that was talented enough, tough enough and invested enough.

Maybe years from now Berube will be in the Quenneville zone where the idea of a reunion doesn’t get laughed out of the room. If that’s not hard to imagine, and it isn’t, then isn’t it worth considering right now?

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  • Ben Frederickson
  • Benfred
  • St. Louis Blues
  • Nhl
  • Craig Berube
  • Drew Bannister
  • David Carle
  • Jim Montgomery
  • Pro-hockey

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BenFred: Are the Blues sure they will hire a better coach than Craig Berube? (2024)


How many coaches have the Blues had? ›

Louis Arena until 1994; they have played their home games at the Enterprise Center, first named the Kiel Center, since then. The majority of the Blues franchise are owned by SLB Acquisition LLC, headed by Tom Stillman; Doug Armstrong is their general manager. There have been 27 head coaches for the Blues.

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Michael Maguire says he is 'big on form' as new NSW Blues coach, support staff unveiled.

How many Stanley Cups have the Blues won? ›

The Blues have appeared in four Stanley Cup finals (1968–70 and 2019) and have won one championship (2019). The Blues (whose name is derived from musician W.C.


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