Craig Berube’s Comments Show Raging Incompetence

(Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)
(Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

On Monday, the Flyers held their yearly exit interviews as a final punctuation mark on a disappointing season. Craig Berube conducted the interviews with each player despite receiving no endorsement from GM Ron Hextall about his future.

Berube is entering the final year of his contract, and Hextall has maintained that he will reevaluate the entire coaching staff when the season is over. It’s been a rocky tenure for Berube, whose tenure has been marred by questionable personnel decisions, and a poor relationship with Steve Mason.

If Berube’s criticisms and handling of Steve Mason weren’t enough for Flyers fans everywhere to question his abilities, his comments during exit interviews certainly were. I’m not talking about his spat with Vinny Lecavalier, who basically said he wouldn’t play in Philadelphia if Berube was back.

Lecavalier hasn’t demonstrated that he is worthy of receiving the top six minutes he’s clamored for under Berube, and has been completely unwilling to adapt his style in order to deserve more ice time.

I’m talking about Berube’s unbelievable comments and attitude towards Sean Couturier.

Does He Understand Defensive Zone Starts?

Coming into the season, Flyers fans and Berube alike expected more offense from Sean Couturier. He produced 37 points this season, with 29 of those coming at even strength. That was good for third on the team (ahead of Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds). However, it wasn’t enough for Craig Berube.

In speaking with the media, Berube appeared defensive and stumbled around his explanation of Couturier and his lack of production. The common narrative is that Couturier’s extremely difficult matchups and lack of offensive zone starts are inhibiting his offensive production.

Craig Berube doesn’t buy it:

Apparently, the appropriate benchmark for your 22 year old center is a 2-time Selke Trophy Winner, Stanley Cup Champion, and 2-Time Olympic Gold Medalist. Bergeron is the best two-way center in the league, and arguably the best possession player in the NHL. That comparison is asinine at best.

But wait, there’s more…

So it’s Couturier’s job to handle tough assignments and play great defensive hockey, but he has to be better offensively. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, Craig. Expecting Couturier to take that usage and turn it into good 2nd line center production (Berube said he expects the upper half of 50 points for Couturier) is basically impossible.

There are only a small handful of centers in the NHL that can consistently take those shifts, and create that production. Any reasonable person can understand that it’s no crime for Couturier to not be Bergeron’s equal. However, this is lost on Craig Berube.

Is it trying to “make a little bit of an excuse” when it’s basically impossible for a forward to produce in Couturier’s shoes? He started 281 starts in the offensive zone this year, and 426 in the defensive zone. That’s a percentage of 39.75%.

Among forwards who have played at least 750 minutes at 5-on-5 over the past five full years, and started less than 40% of their shifts in the offensive zone, only Tyler Bozak and Tomas Plekanec in 2013-14, and Mike Fisher in 2011-12 scored more points at even strength than Couturier did this season.

Sean Couturier (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
Sean Couturier (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

Three times over five seasons players did what Couturier did this year. If Berube was serious about having Couturier “develop as a better player and a better offensive player”, he would start him more in the offensive zone. Expecting him to produce much more offensively with the usage he’s getting is a borderline impossible task.

Thankfully for Sean Couturier and Flyers fans everywhere, it’s very likely than Craig Berube has coached his last game for the Flyers. Maybe we’ll finally see what he can do with favorable usage next season.