When you think of Craig Berube, the Flyers new head coach, you probably think of something like this.
He's a face puncher, and it's a typical Philadelphia move. Hire from within, hire a former goon. Same old crap. Still trying to win with a 1970s mentality, right?
Well, no. Not quite.
Berube might seem like a laughable choice to replace Peter Laviolette behind the bench, but he's not the same guy who beat people up during his playing career. He's coached professional hockey for nine seasons now, and it was only a matter of time before he got an NHL head coaching gig. He was in the running for Washington's job last year and his name has been thrown around regarding other head coaching jobs since.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to have Craig coach the Philadelphia Flyers," Paul Holmgren said Monday. "Craig is one of the smartest hockey guys I've ever been around. He's learned the coaching business over the last nine years. He's been a head coach with the Phantoms. He demands respect. He holds people accountable. He's a no BS kind of guy, and I'm looking forward to Craig taking over the team starting today."
The Chief's experience
All of that coaching experience came in the Flyers organization, which could be both a good thing and a bad thing.
After finishing his playing career with the Philadelphia Phantoms in 2003-04, Berube was hired as the team's assistant coach for the 2004-05 season. He served under John Stevens that year, and the Phantoms won the Calder Cup thanks to a lockout-enriched lineup that included Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Patrick Sharp.
Stevens was promoted to the Flyers as an assistant coach before the 2006-07 season and Berube was tapped as his replacement at the AHL level.
Berube moved up to head coach of the Phantoms for just six games, though, before it all came crashing down at the NHL level. Bob Clarke was fired as general manager of the Flyers and Ken HItchcock was fired as head coach on October 23, 2006. Stevens was promoted to Flyers head coach he brought Berube with him as his assistant coach.
Berube returned to the AHL to lead the Phantoms for the 2007-08 season, leading them to a 46-27-0-7 record and a second-round appearance in the Calder Cup Playoffs. He returned to the Flyers bench the following season.
When Stevens was fired in December 2009 and Peter Laviolette was hired, Berube remained in his role with the Flyers as an assistant coach. Under Laviolette, his focus was the penalty killing, and that's a unit that's seen varying success in his tenure. It's finished 11th, 15th, 17th and 5th in four full years, but it's certainly been a strength of the Flyers in the last two seasons. How much of that is coaching and how much of it is personnel? Hard to know with any type of certainty.
What type of coach is Berube?
Berube takes the head coaching reigns with just six games of head coaching experience, but he's been coaching at the NHL level under a few varying styles for a long time now. Since he hasn't been a head coach for long, though, it's really hard to know what kind of system he'll employ or what kind of head coach he'll be.
Today's quotes from The Chief are really not much of an indication. When asked what the team needs to improve upon:
"First of all, team defense. I don't think we're playing well enough without the puck. We need to play a lot better without the puck and I think we need to compete a lot harder. ... When you play good hockey without the puck, the team comes together and you do the right things to get the puck back and keep the puck out of your net. Right now, we need to stress that. We need to do a better job of that. We need to take pride in it."
And when asked later about those issues vs. not scoring goals, he said:
"When you don't play well without the puck, you don't score goals."
"We'll put some different systems in place and have 100 percent belief in every player we have on this team and we'll be successful."
Finally, on goaltenders and what his strategy will be there:
"I think that will sort itself out."
Holmgren commented a bit on what to expect from Berube in the early going:
"Defense is a team concept. You gotta have all five guys on the same page and that's what he's gonna preach initially. We're giving up far too many scoring chances and not getting enough at the other end, so something needs to give."
A lot of empty words, really, aside from the stuff about playing better without the puck and in their own end of the ice.
There was some more talk about compete level and getting the team to play with everything they have, but none of that gives us any indication of how Berube will coach. If compete level was the only issue before, the fix should be less of a system or style change than "we just got our coach fired so we should get our heads out of our asses" shift in attitude.
We'll have to wait to actually watch the games before we learn what kind of coach Berube will be. Let's hope he's as smart a hockey guy as Paul Holmgren says he is.
Note: A previous version of this story had Berube's AHL experience detailed incorrectly. It's been fixed.