ST. LOUIS – Craig Berube is out as head coach of the St. Louis Blues. It’s the fifth time the Blues have made a coaching change under the direction of general manager Doug Armstrong.
“I feel personally responsible,” said Armstrong on the coaching change during a Wednesday morning press conference. “It’s not a great day, but it’s a new day, and now we move forward.”
Armstrong envisioned the Blues as a playoff contender at the beginning of the season, but was not satisfied with the team’s quality of play in recent weeks and various prolonged struggles dating back to last year, like the power play.
Addressing the Blues current situation for roughly 40 minutes on Wednesday, Armstrong insisted the decision to fire Berube wasn’t so much based on his coaching methods or character, but rather his hope to get something more out of the roster.
“What I would’ve liked to see from our team is a more consistent game,” said Armstrong. “It’s uncomfortable when you go to the arena every night, and you’re not really sure what your team is going to look like. You’re not really sure what to expect. That’s something we haven’t felt here for a long time.”
Drew Bannister will step in as interim head coach, but some alarming issues with roster construction remain, ones that largely fall back on Armstrong more than the coaching staff. It could be difficult for the Blues to bolster depth over the next few years with limited cap space and several players signed to long-term deals on no-trade clauses.
To some degree, Armstrong took accountability for the Blues’ current situation.
“You come to an organization because you want to make it better, and you want to leave it in a better spot,” said Armstrong. “When I came here [in 2008], we were better for a long time. If I get fired in the next hour, or get hit by a bus, I don’t feel today I’ve left it any better than where I found it. And that’s an awful feeling.”
Among some other key comments from Wednesday’s press conference…
1) The process to seek a permanent replacement for a head coach is underwat. It could Bannister or an external candidate, but he says “There’s no timeline on that. We’ll announce it when we announce it.”
2) Armstrong says other team’s interpretations of their recent efforts against the Blues, particularly amid their current four-game skid, did not sit well with him. “When you get up and read the clipping the next day, the players, the opposition, the coaches [are saying] ‘What a character win. What a gutsy win. I can’t believe we did that last night. We’re undermanned. We played the night before against a rested team.’ If they feel that way about their performance, how do we feel about our performance? I personally didn’t feel well about our performance.”
3) He says high-scoring victories against the Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres did not set a good precedent. “We outscored the opposition, but we didn’t win the game. We outscored who we played, but we didn’t walk away saying, ‘We outplayed that team. We won that game.’ There were more nights than not where I felt we didn’t win the game. We didn’t win enough small battles during the game to win the games, not by the score, but the eye test of you are a better team.”
4) Brad Richards, a former Stanley Cup champion with the Tampa Bay Lightning, will step in as a consultant of the team’s struggling power play. “He’s going to work as a consultant for us from a distance. He’s going to wake up in the morning and see our powerplay clips. He’ll talk to [assistant coach] Steve Ott about what they’re seeing. It’s just another avenue or a voice from the outside. Sometimes you can’t see the force from the tree, and I’m hoping Brad could bring a different perspective. It might not work, I don’t know, but doing nothing didn’t seem like the right avenue.”
5) Armstrong says he broke the tough news to Craig Berube over a beer during a closed-door chat and that Chief accepted the decision with respect. They’re still on good terms after seven-plus years working together. “He’s the guy that righted the ship that brought us the  Stanley Cup. … He’s done something that great coaches before him have never been able to do. We’re all remembered today, but what we did yesterday, but in a year, or a month, or maybe even the end of the weekend, Craig Berube won’t be remembered for what happened against the Red Wings [his last game]. He’ll be remembered for what happened in the five years prior to that.”
The Blues are set for their first game in the post-Berube era on Thursday at home against the Ottawa Senators.