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Berube fired up to defend Stanley Cup with Blues

St. Louis coach discusses challenge of repeating, Binnington workload in wide-ranging conversation with NHL.com

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Senior Director of Editorial

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Craig Berube had one of the best -- and shortest -- offseasons of his long career in hockey.

The St. Louis Blues coach spent the offseason celebrating the first Stanley Cup championship since St. Louis entered the NHL in 1967 and reveling in the role he played, having replaced the fired Mike Yeo on Nov. 19, 2018.

The Blues were in last place in the NHL on Jan. 3, but finished with a 30-10-5 run, including a Blues record 11-game winning streak. The Blues (45-28-9) finished third in the Central Division then defeated the Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs before outlasting the Boston Bruins in a seven-game Stanley Cup Final. 

 

[RELATED: St. Louis Blues season preview]

 

It was the first championship for Berube, an undrafted forward who played for 17 years in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, Washington Capitals and New York Islanders. 

Berube was a finalist for the 2019 Jack Adams Award, given to the top NHL coach each season, but lost out to Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders. Berube signed a three-year contract with the Blues on June 24.

The summer has been one long high for Berube, but he is ready to put that in the past.

"It's time to get back to work again," Berube said Friday before watching the Blues play against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the 2019 Traverse City NHL Prospects Tournament at Centre Ice Arena.

The Blues will be trying to become the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since the Pittsburgh Penguins did it in 2017, which was the first time since the Detroit Red Wings repeated in 1998.

Berube discussed the Blues outlook in an interview with NHL.com.  

 

Repeating as Stanley Cup champions has been done twice in the past 20 years. Have you thought about what it will take and the message you need to send to your team?

"For sure, I think we started that in the summertime. We were in contact with our players and things like that. They look prepared. I have seen most of them in St. Louis and they look good and they look fresh and pretty dialed in. Bottom line is you have to be mentally tough. You have to get in there and it is going to be hard. This is a good League. Just to make the playoffs is a challenge. It's very important that our guys are focused and ready to go at camp to put the work in. That's our job as coaches to make sure that happens."

 

Is that job made more difficult by playing in the Central Division?

"It's a good division for sure. It's going to be tough. It was tough last year. I mean you're right, there are a lot of good teams and we are just one of them. Obviously, we have a big challenge ahead of us, but I feel our players are ready for the challenge. We're fortunate to have our whole team back; the only guy we lost was Pat Maroon (the forward signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Lightning). We have some young guys coming up that fit in with our style of play, so we'll see how it goes."

 

Have you reached out to anybody to talk about the difficulties involved in trying to repeat? 

"I reached out to a few people I know and some coaches I know who have been through this. I think it is the same thing; you just have to go by your gut a lot and what you are feeling with your team and how they are looking to you. That's probably the most important thing, because every team is different. But I have reached out to some guys and got some good info back from them and what they did and what to look for.

Video: 31 in 31: St. Louis Blues 2019-20 season preview

 

What was the best advice you got?

"You have to be careful. You have to push your team at camp. We have eight exhibition games and that is a lot. We are going to have to be careful managing our players with these games and things like that because it wasn't long ago they were playing. On the positive side, they didn't really get out of shape. They kept themselves in good shape. They look fresh to me. I think it is important that we keep them fresh until the season starts."

 

One of the key players to the success the Blues had last season was the surprising run by rookie goalie Jordan Binnington. What is it about him that gives you confidence he will pick up right where he left off?

"I think he is really just a sound guy mentally. He really handles things well, whether it is a loss or a bad goal. He just trusts his ability in what he does. That's his strong point, his mental focus. I don't see that changing. He is who he is. He's an aggressive goalie and he is confident in himself and I feel like that hasn't changed. Talking to him in St. Louis he looks really good and he says he is ready to roll. I think just from a mental standpoint, he's really solid."

Video: Top 10 saves of 2018-19: Binnington

 

You spoke earlier of having to manage the workload of players to keep them fresh. Is that especially important for Binnington because of the heavy workload he had in the second half of the season and through the playoffs, combined with the fact that he has yet to play a full NHL season?

"Two parts to that. He came in late, starting in January. But you are right, it was a heavy load with playoffs. But we have two good goalies. Jake Allen was a starter in the NHL for a number of years. Both of them are going to play and both of them are going to get a lot of work."

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