Coach Craig Berube sees opportunity to push Toronto Maple Leafs over the top

Abdulhamid Ibrahim, Canadian Press

Posted Tuesday, May 21, 2024 1:15 pmEDT

Last updated Tuesday, May 21, 2024 2:29 pmEDT

The opportunity to give a talented team the extra boost it needs was enticing for Craig. berube.

berube He was introduced at a news conference as the new head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday. He will replace Sheldon Keefe, who was fired on May 9 after Toronto was eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by Boston.

“Well, obviously, if you look at the roster first… there are some great players here.” berube saying. “And a great opportunity to build a team that can move forward and become something, not better, but over the hump here a little bit.”

Keefe compiled a combined record of 212-97-40 in parts of five seasons in Toronto. However, he went 16-21 in the postseason, including a 1-5 mark in the series.

The Leafs failed to find sustained success after finally getting out of the first round for the first time since 2004, when they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games in 2022-23.

“Watching the playoffs this year with them, I thought there was already that kind of change in the way they want to build and play and that’s (general manager Brad Treliving) bringing that.” berube saying. “Talking to Brad and (president Brendan Shanahan)… we’re on the same page.”

berube, 58, was hired Friday after more than five seasons in St. Louis. He was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year in 2019, when he led the Blues to a Stanley Cup title.

berubeA native of Calahoo, Alta., he said the Leafs’ playoff failures are not his focus.

“That’s a thing for the past” berube saying. “I’m focused on the now and the future. Obviously, I’m going to bring my own style here and how we want to play. And again, Brad and Brendan are okay with that.”

“Competitive, we never want to be outworked. We want to be highly competitive every night.” berube adding the style you want. “We want to play a northern game, we want to play fast, we want to be a heavy team.”

berube He was fired by St. Louis in December after missing the playoffs last spring. He owns a coaching record of 281-190-72 in parts of eight NHL seasons with the Blues and Philadelphia Flyers.

He was promoted from assistant to head coach in St. Louis on an interim basis in November 2018 before leading the Blues to the franchise’s first title seven months later.

He also scored 60 goals, 159 points and 3,149 penalty minutes in 1,054 games over a 17-year playing career in the NHL with Philadelphia, Washington, Calgary, New York Islanders and Toronto. berube He had three goals, one assist and 211 penalty minutes in 89 playoff appearances.

Treliving said there were more than nine people he spoke to before. berube he ultimately became the choice for the head coaching position.

“The homework you do with people who worked, worked and played for Craig – you have players who, to me, talked about how they would walk through a wall for him,” Treliving said.

“The connection he had with his players, the responsibility he had with his players, the bond he was able to build with the staff…ultimately, character matters.”

Shanahan praised his team’s new coach when asked about his battles against berube As a player.

“He was a competitor, he was a guy you always knew when he was on the ice and that translated into his coaching career,” Shanahan said.

Toronto enters an offseason with questions about the future of star forward Mitch Marner. The 27-year-old winger is eligible to sign an extension on July 1, as he only has one year left on his six-year, $65 million contract.

Treliving said they haven’t gotten into player personnel matters yet, as the coaching search was crossed first off the list and amateur and professional scouting meetings will be held this week.

“As I said at the end of the year, we are going to analyze everything,” he said. “We have very good players and we don’t want to lose sight of them.

“But now Craig and I are going to sit down and start digging into all the other areas, roster construction, all that kind of stuff and we have a very busy summer ahead of us.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2024.