ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Blues made official Tuesday what everyone had expected the moment Craig Berube led St. Louis to a remarkable turnaround capped by the first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.
They stripped the interim tag from his title and signed him to three-year contract.
Berube had been the interim coach since taking over for Mike Yeo on Nov. 19, but general manager Doug Armstrong acknowledged during the playoffs an extension was a foregone conclusion. And that was before the Blues beat the Boston Bruins in seven games to hoist the Stanley Cup.
“Craig made an enormous impact on our team when he took over last November,” Armstrong said in a statement. “He restored our identity and provided our players with a clear sense of direction.”
The Blues were in last place at the start of the year, but Berube led them on an 11-game win streak in January and February to position them for the playoffs. They wound up going 38-19-6 in the regular season, then beat the Jets, Stars and Sharks in the playoffs to reach the Stanley Cup Final.
In a dramatic, bruising series, the Blues emerged to win the first title in their 52-year history, helping to give a city still smarting from the loss of the St. Louis Rams a reason to celebrate.
An estimated 500,000 fans showed up in a downpour for the championship parade 10 days ago.
“I’m so happy for the city and the fans here. They deserve it,” Berube said during the rally. “But more than anything I’m so happy for our players because of how hard they’ve played, the character and leadership coming through, winning that cup.”
Berube, who will discuss his new contract during a news conference Wednesday, spent 17 seasons with five organizations as an enforcer in the NHL. He turned to coaching upon retirement, joining the Flyers’ affiliate in the American Hockey League for the 2006-07 season. His stay in the minors didn’t last long. Berube was promoted to assistant coach of the NHL team.
Berube returned to the farm team the following season, then got his break as a head coach in the NHL early in the 2013 season. And while he guided the Flyers to a playoff spot that season, his tenure ended ignominiously when general manager Ron Hextall fired him in April 2015.
Once again working his way through the AHL, Berube joined the Blues’ affiliate in Chicago before becoming an assistant coach in St. Louis. He was elevated to head coach in November, then joined Blues adviser Larry Robinson (New Jersey) as the only interim coaches to win the Cup.
Berube’s successful turnaround made him a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, given to the league’s best coach. He was beaten out by Islanders coach Barry Trotz.
Now, that turnaround has earned Berube a long-term contract.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for this team and this organization, and the city of St. Louis has embraced me as one of their own,” he said in a statement. “This past season was the experience of a lifetime and I’m anxious to get started on our title defense.”
NOTES: The Blues said forward Vladimir Tarasenko had a “successful arthroscopic procedure” on his left knee and will be re-evaluated in four weeks. The 27-year-old Russian forward had 33 goals in the regular season and added 11 more in the postseason.
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