Inside the Flyers: Flyers' turnaround reflects on Berube

Posted: January 13, 2014

This does not easily compute: The Flyers started the season with a franchise-worst 1-7 record, but the man behind their bench, Craig Berube, is now a coach-of-the-year candidate.

To be fair, the 1-7 start was not all his doing. Berube replaced Peter Laviolette after the Flyers lost their first three games, and it took the team a few weeks to adapt to his defense-first system.

Since then, they have been one of the NHL's better teams.

Some believe Tampa Bay's Jon Cooper is the front-runner for the Jack Adams Award, given to the NHL's top coach. And with good reason. The Lightning have withstood the loss of injured superstar Steven Stamkos and have been one of the Eastern Conference's best teams.

Anaheim's Bruce Boudreau is also among a handful of deserving coaches in the mix.

Ditto Berube, 48, a self-deprecating sort whose team entered Saturday with a 22-10-4 record since its 1-7 start.

An enforcer when he was a player, Berube talks like a telegram that you see in an old black-and-white movie. His sentences are short, rhythmic, and to the point.

He coaches the same way.

"I like his no-frills approach," said general manager Paul Holmgren, the man who fired Laviolette and appointed Berube.

The players like that approach, too.

"Chief's rallied the guys and given guys confidence in what they're doing - and reinforced things," defenseman Braydon Coburn said after Friday's practice. "I think, to a man, the guys in the dressing room are starting to play better and have grasped what we're trying to do."

Berube has "reinforced guys' roles," Coburn said. "When there have been mistakes, he's been very honest and very straightforward with guys on what he expects, and guys respond to that."

Under Berube, all four lines have contributed, and the defense has been steady because it has received good support from the back-checking forwards and excellent work from goalie Steve Mason.

In short, the Flyers have been playing an impressive team game.

"He changed some systems up, and I think it really helped us," winger Wayne Simmonds said. "I've been saying since Chief became the head coach, we've been playing a lot more from above the puck; it makes it a lot easier when you're not chasing things. We're creating turnovers in the neutral zone, and from there we're getting more offensive opportunities, and we're playing strong team defense as well."

Mason, the team's MVP, said Berube has played a huge role in the Flyers' turnaround.

"I've only been here for a short amount of time, but I've seen how knowledgeable he is with the game, what he can get out of the players," Mason said. "Everyone in this locker room respects him. I'm not saying that everybody didn't respect Lavy, but when you have a coaching change, it's a wake-up call for everybody. Everybody is kind of going to look at themselves at what they can do better to make sure that doesn't happen again."

Berube, who likes to poke fun at his offensive ability as a player, is "calm behind the bench and never panics, even when we were going through a tough time," said center Sean Couturier, who has been given more ice time and responsibility under the new coach. "He's stuck with us and believed in us."

Now in his 17th season in the organization, Berube has a no-nonsense, defensive-minded approach that has steered the Flyers back into the playoff hunt and put him into the coach-of-the-year talk. The last Flyers coach to win the award was Bill Barber, who took over early in the 2000-01 season, replacing Craig Ramsay after the team started 12-12-4.

The Flyers went 31-13-7-3 under Barber the rest of the season but were eliminated by Buffalo in the first round of the playoffs.

This year's team, now that it has regained its equilibrium, has higher aspirations.

Inside the Flyers: Coach of the Year Winners

In franchise history, the Flyers have had four winners of the Jack Adams Award, presented to the NHL coach of the year. The four:

Coach   Season   Record   Finish   

Bill Barber   2000-01   31-13-7-3*   Lost in conference quarterfinals   

Mike Keenan   1984-85   53-20-7   Lost in Stanley Cup Finals   

Pat Quinn   1979-80   48-12-20   Lost in Stanley Cup Finals   

Fred Shero   1973-74   50-16-12   Won Stanley Cup   

* – replaced Craig Ramsay after 28 games.    - Sam Carchidi


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