Blues 2021-22 Report Cards: Craig Berube

The St. Louis Blues’ 2021-22 season represented a major transition for the franchise. No longer a stout defensive team built from the blue line out, they finished second in the NHL in goals scored, with nine forwards recording 20-plus goals. Though the season came to an end in a six-game defeat by the Colorado Avalanche in the second round, there are plenty of highs and lows to reflect on. In this series, we’ll evaluate each player who played 10 or more games with the team (as well as the head coach and general manager), grading their individual performance and looking at their future with the team.

St. Louis Blues' head coach Craig Berube
St. Louis Blues’ head coach Craig Berube reacts on the bench. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

The third full regular season of Craig Berube as the head coach of the St. Louis Blues was the best yet. They had a great season, especially when it came to scoring goals. Their elite and balanced offensive attack was a signal of change from what the Blues were before.

Berube has a terrific staff alongside him and that certainly helped drive his success. Having said that, he has continuously made brilliant coaching adjustments to make the Blues even better, which were on display throughout the 2022 Playoffs.

What Went Right: First 100-Point Season as a Coach

The Blues went 49-22-11 in the regular season, which was good for 109 points, as they finished third in the Central Division and ninth in the NHL. Prior to this past season, Berube had three straight playoff appearances and a Stanley Cup. The Blues even finished second in the NHL during the 2019-20 suspended season, but this season felt like a different level.

The biggest takeaway from Berube’s team this season was incredible goalscoring, which led to them having a total of 311 goals and ranking fourth in the NHL. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Blues were 42-19-10 with a point percentage of .662 in the 2019-20 season. The Blues topped that this season with a point percentage of .665. They also had their best playoff performance since winning the Stanley Cup in 2019, as they had a record of 2-11 in between the Cup win and this year’s playoffs.

It’s now been four straight seasons of playoff hockey for Berube in St. Louis, as he’s brought a mix of accountability and sustainability to the organization. They’ve had that for a lot of their time as a franchise, but it feels great with him behind the bench right now.

What Went Wrong: The Small Things

Handling the Goaltending Situation

It’s a little bit of nitpicking by me here, but I would say that this was a prevalent issue late in the season. When Jordan Binnington started to re-emerge late in the season, Berube continuously started a struggling Ville Husso instead. Proof of this was Husso’s save percentage (SV%) of .908 in his final 11 starts. His record may have been 8-1-2, but it became clear that the Blues absurd scoring rates were the reason for that. His two best games in that stretch were against the Seattle Kraken and Arizona Coyotes, who clearly weren’t good teams.

Ville Husso St. Louis Blues
Ville Husso, St. Louis Blues (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Binnington, on the other hand, had a six-game stretch in the middle of April with a 5-1-0 record and .916 SV%. I don’t disagree with Berube’s call to make Husso the playoff starter to begin the series with the Minnesota Wild, but it wasn’t surprising that he eventually had to go to Binnington, who ended up having an incredible playoff run. Once again, this isn’t a large gripe, but it’s something to think about from this past season.

Related: Blues 2021-22 Report Cards: Ville Husso

If there was another issue with the handling of goaltenders to discuss, it’s about pulling them too early, which Berube did a lot. It’s hard to win games when the goalie is pulled with three to four minutes left and an instant empty netter is allowed. The Blues and Berube himself must reevaluate their handling of pulling the goaltender late in games, as the current strategy is not working whatsoever.

The Kadri Situation

There is two things with this and they aren’t exactly pretty for Berube or the organization. The first thing is what happened when Binnington got injured. It was a fast play where Calle Rosen didn’t help the situation, however, I didn’t view it as a dirty play overall. Yes, Nazem Kadri has an ugly history and has made a ton of mistakes, but this specific play was not one of them in my opinion. After the game, Berube’s comments weren’t fair as he brought up Kadri’s history. The Blues are right to have an ugly taste in their mouth from his nasty and dirty hit on Justin Faulk during the 2021 Playoffs, but that shouldn’t apply to what was not a dirty play with Binnington.

St. Louis Blues Craig Berube Doug Armstrong
St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube and general manager Doug Armstrong (Colter Peterson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

The “no comment” by Berube after being asked about the various threats that Kadri received were not right, but I believe him when he explained that he was unaware of the racial nature and seriousness of the threats. Either way, it was not a good look for Berube or the Blues, and to compound matters, it also took them far too long to address the issue.

Key Facts

  • 156 wins with Blues, now third all-time in franchise history
  • 24 playoff wins, third all-time in franchise history
  • Fifth longest tenured coach in the NHL

Final Grade: A-

A positive grade is a no-brainer for me, as it aligns with the grade that general manager Doug Armstrong was given in his report card. He was part of a complete roster adjustment from last season to this season, and it worked to perfection, as he completely outcoached Wild head coach Dean Evason in their series and has proven that he can make brilliant adjustments. His staff was a major part of it as well, as the Blues were top five in both the power play and penalty kill.

What’s Next for Berube?

The Blues signed Berube to a three-year contract extension in Feb. 2022, so he’s not going anywhere. If he stays through the 2024-25 season and beyond, which is the plan, he needs 151 wins to catch Joel Quenneville for most in franchise history. He’s on pace to do that, since he has 156 over four seasons, but only two of them have been 70 or more games. All in all, he is one of the best coaches in the NHL and the Blues are lucky to have him.

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