Connect with us


New Maple Leafs coach Craig Berube gets right down to business



Get the latest from Lance Hornby straight to your inbox

Article content

Eager as he is to start work, Craig Berube’s first three days as coach of the Maple Leafs were spent on the phone, not on the ice. 

Advertisement 2

Article content

Presumably those calls included the Maple Leafs’ leadership group, one or two of the Core Four, and his assistants, both currently employed and those who might be tapped as replacements as the new man got up to speed. 

Article content

“I’ve made contact with most of the team and met some guys in person,” Berube said. “It’s been great support.” 

And while general manager Brad Treliving went into great detail at Tuesday’s introductory press conference about the search process, profile and philosophy of the new man, Berube wore his familiar stoic expression from his playing days and previous bench stops — all-business, as though he couldn’t wait to get off the stage.

“To hold players accountable (a word thrown around a lot Tuesday) and for players to understand the accountability, you have to form a partnership,” Berube said. “I think that starts in the summertime, getting to know them and them understanding about what I’m all about and how I’ll coach each individual. 

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

“Then, when you have to hold a player accountable — it could be ice time, it could be whatever — they’ll understand it more. Communication is huge and that’s one of my strengths. My players know where they stand. I’ll tell them when they’re playing well, not playing well and things they can improve on.” 

Treliving, whose stamp is now truly on the Leafs a year into the job, stopped proceedings at one point to clarify that the fired Sheldon Keefe had not been asleep at the motivational wheel and his influence was obvious with three 100-point seasons to his credit.

But it’s what the Leafs look like a year from now at playoff time, when Keefe couldn’t get them rolling in the past, that truly matters. 

“We’re all watching what’s being playing right now,” Treliving said of all second-round series going at least six games. “It’s really difficult to have success. You’ve got to be able to push people into uncomfortable situations and to me, you have to connect with those people first. 

Advertisement 4

Article content

“That was part of the profile, somebody that can command respect (Berube being a former NHL scrapper and earning a Stanley Cup ring in St. Louis helps). Presence is an important thing for me, you either have it or you don’t.” 

Treliving said he and club president Brendan Shanahan got great feedback on that point, talking to ex-players and others in the NHL family over the past few days. 

“Craig’s ability to teach, as one former player and one former coach has said, he’s quietly brilliant,” Treliving said. 

Treliving revealed he spoke or considered about nine candidates, likely including Todd McLellan, Gerard Gallant and, with the league keeping a close eye on him, Joel Quenneville.  

“The first step was to identify a profile, then go out and find the individual who fits those characteristics. I’m not necessarily going to get into names (but) as I went through the process, it kept coming back to Craig. He’s touched every step on the ladder (player, assistant coach in the AHL and the NHL, head coach in the show with two bedrock franchises in Philadelphia and St. Louis).”

Advertisement 5

Article content

Berube has quite a varied lineup right now, including everything from hungry kids, such as Easton Cowan and Fraser Minten, to 37-year-old Ryan Reaves.

“We don’t want to be out-worked, ever,” Berube said of how his vision will be manifested in October. “It’s all about the team. Everybody’s important, everybody has to be used, they all have roles. That’s really important to me.  

“We want to be play a north game, fast, be a heavy team. Not running guys through boards and fighting and all that stuff. The game has changed. But you still have to be strong on pucks, win puck battles. Structure is huge in all three zones.”

Recommended from Editorial

Advertisement 6

Article content

The biggest challenge off-ice for the 58-year-old Berube will be the day-to-day grind of practices, morning skates, game nights and all the attention that goes with being Leafs coach. Not just reporters at the rink almost every day, but the club’s own social media channels and obligations to the two broadcast giants who share ownership of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

New MLSE CEO Keith Pelley was in the front row Tuesday listening intently to the new coach.

“That’s all part of the job if you want to come here,” shrugged Berube, who dealt with the busy Philly market a couple of years, but must have enjoyed less scrutiny in Missouri, especially after helping deliver the Blues’ first Cup. “I get all that, but it’s not going to be weighing on my shoulders. 

“Me, a Canadian-born kid, you get a chance to coach the Leafs, I’m going to jump on it.” 

X: @sunhornby  

Article content

Continue Reading