In the span of just a few months, Craig Berube has completely turned around the St. Louis Blues and has them through to the Western Conference Final. He’s done all of that under the title of interim head coach, without any declaration from the front office that tag would be removed at the end of the year. Today, speaking with reporters including Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic ahead of the third round, GM Doug Armstrong made it clear where the Blues’ coaching search is headed. Sitting next to Berube, Armstrong said the candidate list is now “a list of one” but that they will talk about the future after the season is over.
It comes as very little surprise that Berube will be the man to lead the Blues into the future. When the team decided to move on from Mike Yeo in November, they were 7-9-3 and floundering at both ends of the ice. That didn’t switch immediately when they installed Berube, quite the opposite. The team proceeded to lose ten of their next 18 games and when the calendar turned over to January they were tied with the Ottawa Senators for last place in the entire NHL with just 34 points. Then, the turnaround began.
The Blues would go 30-10-5 in 2019, pulling themselves out of the basement and into a secure playoff position. The recall of Jordan Binnington and his incredible run was a huge part of this, but Berube put the players in the right places and things started to click. In the playoffs, the team walked through a Stanley Cup favorite in Winnipeg, and then needed the hometown hero Pat Maroon to poke home a loose puck in order to dispatch Ben Bishop and the Dallas Stars.
It was always going to be Berube once he got the team to the playoffs, but there is still the question of how long his contract will be and how much it will cost the Blues. Those two things may well be determined by how they do in the next two rounds.