A lot of people might think the success story of the year belongs to the Carolina Hurricanes making the Playoffs for the first time in a decade. You wouldn’t be wrong, with the Canes making a statement. Contending with them is the St. Louis Blues story, a team dead in the water early on and now in the Western Conference Finals. A big part of their success comes from bringing on Craig Berube, who is now a Finalist for the Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year).
Making the Transition
Prior to Berube taking over the coaching job, Mike Yeo headed the Blues for just over two seasons. He, in turn, had taken over for Ken Hitchcock following the conclusion of the 2016 season. That in itself was a tall order for St. Louis, with Hitchcock having the reigns from 2012-2016, also winning the Jack Adams Award his first season.
Yeo had proven success with the Minnesota Wild, so it wasn’t a bad hire by any means, but he couldn’t meet expectations down in St. Louis. He had a similar story going by turning around a lackluster Blues team, resulting in making the Playoffs and beating Minnesota in the first round. The success faded to begin the 2019 season, starting the year with a 7-9-3 record. He was fired on November 18.
In steps Berube, who’s been the official interim-head coach ever since. The turnaround wasn’t easy and didn’t come quick. His tenure with the Blues didn’t seem like it was going to last long, they were still in the basement on January 1. To be more specific, their record was 15-18-4.
Climbing the Standings
St. Louis opened 2019 with mixed results, beating defending the defending Cup Champion Washington Capitals 5-2, then losing to the New York Islanders 4-3. Berube made a critical change at this point, inserting rookie Jordan Binnington as their primary goalie.
He provided a shot in the arm, pitching a shutout in his NHL debut against the Philadelphia Flyers. Up to that point in the season, the Blues had only pitched two shutouts with two different goalies.
They surged up the standings and put themselves in a real chance for a Wild Card spot, then contended for best in the Division, then the Conference. They ended up finishing tied for second in the Division, losing the tie-breaker to the Winnipeg Jets.
Pulling off an improbable second half of the season, St. Louis earned a playoff berth and didn’t stop there. Berube and the Blues beat out the Jets in six games, then went to the wire and eliminated the Dallas Stars in seven. They’re currently tied 1-1 with the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Finals and return home for games three and four.
This moment between Berube and hometown hero Patrick Maroon sums up the Blues’ season.
St, Louis hasn’t made it to the Stanley Cup Finals since the 1967-70 seasons, their first three years as a franchise. Though St. Louis won’t settle for less than winning the Cup, it seems they’ve found the man who meshes with their mantra and will eventually end their franchise’s drought.
According to stltoday.com, there’s a very good chance Berube will be offered the full head coaching position, with an expected four-year contract extension.
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