Berube lets goonish behavior slide

Posted: October 10, 2013

The Flyers had introduced Craig Berube as their new head coach Monday morning with a shower of promises and platitudes about toughness and leadership and accountability.

Over his 17 years as an NHL player, Berube had forged a reputation as one of the league's most intimidating enforcers, racking up more than 3,000 penalty minutes in his career, never fearing to drop the gloves and tread on the dark side of his sport.

From Ed Snider to Peter Luukko to Paul Holmgren, the organization's power people had framed Berube's promotion as the perfect antidote for a team that had lost its discipline and tenacity.

If the Flyers had played loose and disorganized hockey under Peter Laviolette in losing their first three games, Berube wouldn't let such laziness slide, and the team would have no choice but to shape up. What player in his right mind, after all, would dare cross Chief?

It took little more than two periods into Berube's first game, a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, to find out. A fourth-line forward named Jay Rosehill - a player with three goals and 278 penalty minutes in 86 NHL games, a player whose primary purpose on the Flyers' roster is to throw his fists - was guilty of the goonish behavior that so often turns hockey into a laughingstock.

Already whistled for one roughing infraction and about to enter the penalty box early in the third period, Rosehill instead spun around and skated across the ice on a search-and-destroy mission. He inserted himself into a skirmish, knocking down Panthers forward Tomas Kopecky, earning another roughing penalty and a 10-minute misconduct and leaving the Flyers shorthanded for four minutes.

That the Flyers muffled the Panthers over that stretch, holding them to one shot on goal and killing off the penalties, is beside the point. Rosehill's irresponsible actions could have changed the course of a one-goal game, a game his team needed to win, yet there was Berube afterward, mitigating Rosehill's first penalty and offering a halfhearted condemnation of the indefensible.

"Well, I thought it was a weak call originally," Berube said. "And then what he did afterward was unacceptable. He can't do it. He knows that."

Did the coach have some sort of punishment in mind?

"You want me to spank him?" Berube said. "Get lost."

It was a funny line, and with it, Berube deftly let himself off the hook. No, Chief, we don't want you to smack the bottom of a 6-foot-3, 215-pound left winger. But it would be good if you benched him. In fact, it would be better if you and Holmgren did the right thing and cut him.

Berube and Holmgren will never do such a thing, because these are the Flyers, and they still cling to that tired belief that an NHL team has to suit up at least one fighter every night to protect its other, more talented players. The Detroit Red Wings, with their commitment to skill and speed and synchronicity, have been proving that theory wrong for two decades, but no matter. The Flyers stick to it, so Rosehill will stay.

Never mind that his presence keeps a more competent player - Kris Newbury, who assisted on the Flyers' only goal in their previous game - out of the lineup. Never mind that the player Rosehill went to rescue wasn't Claude Giroux or Jake Voracek - it was the Flyers' other tough guy, Zac Rinaldo. These are the Flyers. This is the franchise of Dave Schultz and Dave Brown and, well, Craig Berube. This is a culture that never, ever needs to change. So, yes, Rosehill probably will stay.

"When Zac's surrounded by four other guys, I feel the need to get in there," Rosehill said. "Sometimes, I think I've got to let him handle it himself."

Understand the context of what Rosehill did and when he did it: The Flyers were winless. The day before, they had fired their coach. They were outplayed Tuesday night; they won only because Steve Mason was marvelous in goal for them and, before removing himself from the game with a lower-body injury, Tim Thomas was less than marvelous for the Panthers.

Rosehill shouldn't have had to think at all. He should have plopped down in the penalty box rather than jeopardize a victory for the sake of protecting a teammate who could protect himself.

So here comes Craig Berube's first true test in his new job, and if all anyone remembers from Tuesday night is his one-liner in the postgame news conference, he will have failed it. Eight shifts, less than five minutes of ice time, 14 penalty minutes, and sole responsibility for a power play that could have cost his team the game - that was the sum of Rosehill's night. It should be his last in a Flyers uniform. If Berube and the men who made him an NHL coach are good on their word, it will be.


Msielski@phillynews.com

@MikeSielski

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