Blues 2022-23 Report Cards: Craig Berube

The St. Louis Blues’ 2022-23 season was a shocking disappointment for fans and management alike, leading to the team becoming sellers at the trade deadline and ultimately finishing in a draft lottery position outside the playoffs. So who bears the blames for the team’s failings? And who succeeded despite the team’s struggles? That’s what we’ll look to identify in our 2022-23 Blues’ Report Cards series.

Craig Berube St. Louis Blues
Craig Berube Head Coach of the St. Louis Blues (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The St. Louis Blues season was, to put it bluntly, a disaster. A team that expected to be a fringe Stanley Cup contender finished in a draft lottery position. And any time a team fails that badly, the head coach bears responsibility. But how much blame should fall directly on Craig Berube’s shoulders? Let’s take a look.

What Went Right: Development

From the moment the Blues finished an eight-game losing streak, even despite the seven-game winning streak that followed, it was clear that the season was not going to go the way that anyone had planned. As a result, the word “rebuild” was introduced to the conversation very early, meaning that the focus quickly shifted to prioritizing the Blues’ younger players. And, for the most part, Berube helped those players grow during the 2022-23 season — or at least he usually didn’t interfere with their maturation.

Related: Blues’ Rebuild Takes Shape with Blais, Kapanen, and Vrána

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While plenty of ink has been spilled about Jordan Kyrou — who seemed at times to have a fraught relationship with the head coach — 2022-23 was not a step back like many suggested. He is not as much of a defensive liability as some propose, and, if it needs repeating, he was the team’s leading scorer. Three of the team’s four leading scorers are part of that future “core,” in Kyrou, Pavel Buchnevich, and Robert Thomas. All three had fine seasons. And when Jakub Vrána, Sammy Blais, and Kasperi Kapanen entered the mix around the trade deadline, they all seemed to blossom in their new roles. Nikita Alexandrov even broke the NHL roster and looked like a solid piece.

Next season should be an even bigger test for development skills, as younger players like Jake Neighbours, Zachary Bolduc, and Scott Perunovich will look to break into the NHL and become fixtures. But from his days as an American Hockey League coach aiding the development of many of the players that now comprise the NHL roster, Berube has proven he’s up to the task.

What Went Wrong: Defensive Disaster

The Blues were a complete trainwreck defensively. While Berube cannot be blamed for assembling the roster, and defensive coach Mike Van Ryn has already been scapegoated for the team’s shortcomings, there is no question that Berube, a defensive-minded coach, bears significant responsibility for the disastrous outcome. It is tough to overstate just how big an issue the Blues’ defense is: one of the most-expensive bluelines in the NHL was undeniably one of the worst-performing by every available metric.

St. Louis Blues defensive logjam Torey Krug, Justin Faulk, and Colton Parayko
The Blues’ defensive nightmare starts with the logjam of three long contracts with matching $6.5 million AAVs for Torey Krug, Justin Faulk, and Colton Parayko

The Blues allowed the sixth-most goals against in the NHL, had the ninth-worst goals-against average (GAA) at 3.38, and had a goal differential of minus-38. Teams took 311 more shots against the Blues than they took against the opposition. In every facet, the Blues were playing on the backfoot, and the defense was not good enough to cover. While Van Ryn might have been most directly responsible for the defense, the buck stops with Berube. And the defensive failures led to a result that simply was not good enough to match expectations coming into the season.

Key Stats

  • 37-38-7 record
  • Sixth-place finish in NHL Central Division
  • 194.6 expected goals against (xGA); fourth-most in the NHL

Final Grade: F

It simply was not good enough this season. Berube would be the first one to admit that. The defensive failures, the goaltending breakdowns, the on-ice squabbles, and the final record all reflect badly on the head coach. He has to be better.

What’s Next for Berube?

Berube will be back behind the bench to start next season. And in the middle of a rebuild, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be fired early, even if the team struggles. Early in the season, Armstrong voiced his strong support for Berube. Presumably, that support continues. But another season like this likely will make it Berube’s last in St. Louis. The team cannot accept results like these and can only defend the man in charge for so long. Berube will always be the coach who miraculously orchestrated a Stanley Cup turnaround for the ages, but his grasp on the head coaching job in St. Louis has never felt more tenuous.

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