Is Craig Berube the Answer to the Toronto Maple Leafs Problems?

2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Seven

The Toronto Maple Leafs will have a new bench boss in charge this fall.  Craig Berube has been named the 41st head coach of the team, replacing Sheldon Keefe, who was fired after the Leafs were eliminated from the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Boston Bruins.

Will Berube be the key to turning around the fortunes of a Toronto Maple Leafs franchise that is now 57 years removed from its previous Stanley Cup championship?  The short answer to that question is…….no.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Berube.  He’s a good coach, and several other teams (New Jersey particularly) were said to be interested in hiring him.  Of all the candidates available, he’s probably the best choice GM Brad Treliving could have made (with the possible exception of Rod Brind’Amour).

Berube’s best attribute is the fact that he coached the St. Louis Blues to an unexpected Stanley Cup victory in 2019.  Overall, his coaching statistics are just okay, with a 281-190-72 record in the regular season, and 27-31 (stats per in the playoffs.

Sheldon Keefe is a good coach too, and may well be hired on in New Jersey now that Berube is off the market.  Keefe’s coaching record in the regular season (212-97-40) is quite a bit better than his replacement’s, and similar in the playoffs overall (16-21).  The difference, of course, is Berube’s Stanley Cup win.

The other difference between the two men is their coaching style.  Keefe was generally laid back, and for the most part, came across as “Mr. Nice Guy” when it came to dealing with the players.  Berube is emotional and has more of a temper, and is expected to be more direct and “in your face” in dealing with any perceived lack of effort from his players.

No particular style of coaching works with every type of roster.  Since Keefe wasn’t able to get the Toronto Maple Leafs past the second round of the playoffs (and that only once in 5 seasons in charge), many assume that Keefe’s coaching style was a big part of the problem.

Thus, the feeling is that a switch to Berube’s hard-nosed style will greatly improve the chances of on-ice success.  Berube may or may not lead the Leafs to greater playoff glory, but unless there are other significant changes coming, I feel he will be just as hamstrung as his predecessor was trying to win with a flawed lineup.

The problem these past several years hasn’t been the coaching.  It’s mostly been the lack of a high-quality goaltender, and a defense corps giving way too much ice-time to borderline NHL’ers.

For the Toronto Maple Leafs to have a realistic chance of winning the Stanley Cup, Treliving absolutely must find a way to add a top-end goalie and a couple of top-4 defenders.  If he can do that, Craig Berube may just get his name inscribed on the Cup a second time.

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