In taking over Flyers, Berube to focus on defense

In taking over Flyers, Berube to focus on defense

Boruk goes 1-on-1 with Craig Berube

October 7, 2013, 3:45 pm
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On Monday, Craig Berube was named the 18th coach in Flyers history. (AP)

It’s the same old story. In filling their suddenly vacant coaching position, the Flyers elected to reach from within and promote a current assistant and ex-player into the role.

But new Flyers coach Craig Berube would like you to know that he’s not a Peter Laviolette clone. Or a Paul Holmgren clone. Or a clone of anyone else for that matter.

“Just because I’ve been in the organization for a long time doesn’t mean I’m going to do the same things other coaches are going to do,” said Berube, who received a two-year contract, a source confirmed with “I’m not them. I have my own thoughts. I have my own way of how I want to coach.

“Bringing somebody from the outside doesn’t mean you’re going to win, just because you’re bringing somebody from the outside. This organization’s been very successful for a long time.”

Berube, 48, had started his seventh year as an assistant coach in Philadelphia this season, his 17th overall with the organization. He is now the 18th head coach in Flyers history -- bypassing the “interim” tag to take over the job for the foreseeable future. The exact terms of his deal were expected to be decided upon by late Monday.

Having served alongside Laviolette for parts of five seasons, Berube certainly learned a lot from the man let go after the Flyers’ second consecutive 0-3 start (see story). But, he said, his version of the Flyers won’t look just like Laviolette’s did.

The systems will change. The emphasis will change. In looking at the Flyers’ inability to score goals, for instance, Berube isn’t primarily concerned with how the lines looked or whether the special-teams chemistry was in sync. He isn’t even immediately troubled by how the Flyers appear when they’re in control of the play.

“First of all,” Berube said, “team defense. We need to play better without the puck. When you play good hockey without the puck. The team comes together and does the right things to get the puck back and to keep the puck out of your net. Right now, we need to stress that. We need to do a better job of it, and we need to take pride in it.”

Holmgren, the general manager, called Berube “one of the smartest hockey guys” he’s spent time with, praising the coach’s knowledge of the game and direct approach.

In examining the Flyers’ choices leading up to Monday’s coaching change, you have to believe that the organization has had him pegged as Laviolette’s successor for a while. Berube has spent time playing for and learning from a variety of coaches, from Mike Keenan to John Paddock to Darryl Sutter.

"I think Craig believes that everybody needs to play good defense, and that off that, they're going to develop good offense,” Holmgren said. “Is that different than [Laviolette]? Probably a little bit. Peter's approach was always offensive-minded. It’s not to say that [Berube] is not an offensive-minded guy either, because he is.”

In his typical straight-to-the-point style, Berube told reporters he wouldn’t be listing for them the ways in which his system will be different from Laviolette’s. But he did contend that it’s far too simple to call his coaching style defense-minded.

“It’s not so much a defense-minded approach,” he said. “We want to be an aggressive hockey team on both sides of the puck. And for me right now, I don’t see our team doing a very good job without the puck. Everybody’s going to say, we only scored three goals in three games. You want to score more goals? Do your job without the puck.

“Put yourself in a position to defend, and you’ll get more turnovers and more opportunities the other way.”

To help Berube on the bench, he and Holmgren elected to hire Ian Laperriere as a new assistant coach and chose to keep Paddock in his position. Assistant Kevin McCarthy, an ex-Flyer but Laviolette hire, was fired Monday along with the head coach.

Berube repeatedly used the word "tough" in describing Monday, because even though he received a promotion, his trusted colleague was let go. But, he said, coaching the Flyers is a perfect fit for him.

"I’ve been a Flyer my whole life -- whether I played for other teams or not," Berube said. "So it’s a great honor. From Mr. Snider down. They’ve always looked after me. It’s a great honor."

In his first meeting with the team as its head coach Monday afternoon, Berube said he explained to players specifically what they must do in order to make the team more successful. That was the emphasis: specific issues that required immediate improvement.

“Sometimes,” Berube said, “players think they’re playing hard enough, and they’re not.”

So how’s he going to get the Flyers to play as hard as they need to, when Laviolette couldn’t?

“Demand it,” Berube said. “Accountability. Every player is accountable to his teammate. That’s basically what it boils down to. You have to be accountable to their teammates, and you have to play well.”

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