Craig Berube seems to be the top candidate for the job of Leafs coach. There is talk about others, but the word seems to be out he's the guy. There's even a betting line on the topic. Berube was fired from his last coaching job in December, so the Leafs have had lots of time to quietly talk to him. Everyone else out there with coaching experience has either been recently fired for failing to get teams into the playoffs or deep enough into the playoffs and the memory is still fresh, or they are actually retired. So who exactly is Berube and is he better than all the rest because he won a Cup?


Berube turns 59 this December, and he is originally from Calahoo, Alberta. He played hockey in the WHL where he was noted for penalty minutes while still managing points that made him a useful player at that age. He is listed at 6'1" and about 200 lbs, and he played as a winger, dramatically increasing the penalty minutes in the AHL and NHL. His NHL points pace just barely crossed the "Roman Polak line" meaning he was not there to add to the offence. He has 3,149 PIM in the NHL in 17 years.

Berube's father and uncles played hockey and coached him when he was young. He has played or coached hockey his entire life. Ending his NHL career with two years in Calgary under Darryl Sutter, and long before Treliving's time there. He ended his career playing for the Flyers AHL affiliate in 2004.

He began his coaching career with the Flyers AHL affiliate in 2004 - 2005. He had played a year and a half with the Flyers in 1999-2000, getting to the Conference Finals in his final year there. He had got to the Final with Washington a few years earlier where they were swept by the fast-paced Detroit Red Wings, but he never won the Cup as a player.

He stayed with the Flyers organization for 11 years, the final two as head coach of the NHL club. He took a year off after the Flyers fired him, and then he joined the St. Louis Blues in 2017 as associate coach. He became head coach there in November 2018. The Blues won the Cup in 2019, and he was made permanent head coach after the win until they fired him on December 13 of this season.


For the first part of Berube's tenure on the team as an assistant and then head coach, the Flyers were good, just missing winning the Cup by this much in 2010. But their quality started to fade under the new CBA with rising salaries and ageing stars. The team was in and out of the playoffs losing in the first round when they did make it until Berube was fired after they missed entirely. Wayne Simmonds led them in goals that year.


Signed as an interim head coach off the bench in 2018, the Blues famously were in the tank, losing at an astonishing rate, and then Jordan Binnington joined the team out of the AHL and they rolled all the way to the final.

Much like with his Flyers' teams when he was head coach, there wasn't a lot of scoring. Vladimir Tarasenko led the team with 33 goals, and Ryan O'Reilly had 28. The only players under 25 to play something like a full season were Vince Dunn, Ivan Barbashev and the 19-year-old Robert Thomas.

Post Cup run was the Pandemic year, and they were beaten in the first actual round of the playoffs. They were swept in the first round in 2021 by Colorado, lost to them again in the second round the next year and finished with 81 points in 2023. The Blues had 15 losses already by the time Berube was fired in December of 2023 and the team had declined from good but not great Corsi and Expected Goals percentages in their Cup year, to bottom of the league levels.


Berube has mostly coached teams with limited forward talent, and there seemed to be conflicts in St. Louis this season over a team that wasn't very likely to make the playoffs but had some good young talent in Thomas and Jordan Kyrou. The new coach didn't change much in terms of top end forward and defence deployment, but the Blues nearly backed into a playoff spot, ultimately taken by Nashville.

This is all just eerily familiar. The team fails to perform, and Berube is fired. Or in the case of the Blues this year, he seems to have lost the room just like Mike Babcock did with the Leafs.

The Flyers got bad for obvious reasons, and no coach was going to inspire them to greatness. The Blues had everything go right once, and then started to lose the key players who brought them the Cup. Lack of results leads to a change of voice.

There is every indication that the Leafs are seriously considering Berube ahead of all other possible candidates. This seems to be a thing everyone knows, just like with Treliving last year. They may interview other people, but they've got their guy fixed in their minds.

Berube, like Treliving is a conservative, known commodity with experience. It's a safe and very middle of the road choice. You can't blame a coach for being fired from a team that is bad once it's shed all its top players. But Berube's playoff record in his winning season is one of dramatically limited offensive quality that dropped off from an up-tempo regular season. The key to the win was a goalie plus a superstar defenceman who allowed them to hang in enough games to win them. They did get some easy runs, like the Conference Final against the Sharks and Martin Jones. Their seven-game final against Boston looks like every Leafs series, save for who won the last game.

The Leafs likely need a new voice just like the Blues did. They also need a few more things than that, since unlike most of Berube's past teams, they have had a lot more highly-skilled talent, orders of magnitude ahead of everyone else he's coached except maybe Claude Giroux. They aren't tearing it all down, selling off assets and playing prospects. If they were, Berube wouldn't be the guy Treliving wants. After all, the Blues didn't want him in that situation. The Leafs are a lot more like the Flyers teams Berube saw as an assistant under Peter Laviolette who is busy leading the Rangers to victory over the Hurricanes with an up-tempo, offense-focused system.

He's not hired yet, but it sure feels like only a matter of time. He's not a bad coach by any means, but there's a serious lack of dynamism in his teams. He is a safe choice for a GM who likes predictable and safe choices and who cares a great deal about toughness. It all has an air of the turn of the century and deep desire to turn back time.