When Craig Berube took over as head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers one week into the regular season last year after the team fired Peter Laviolette, he inherited a roster that was 0-3, disjointed, disorganized and at times even seemed disinterested.
A veteran of 17 seasons in the NHL with five different teams and the last eight years as a coach in the Flyers organization, Berube set an immediate different course, injected life into a moribund first month and resurrected the Orange and Black’s season.
From his first day, Berube pulled a complete 180 with the system by going from Laviolette’s offensive-minded approach to a defensive philosophy.
And he did it on the fly during the regular season and without a training camp.
It took about a month, but the Flyers figured it out and bought into Berube’s style and the team had one of the best records in the league from December until the end of the season (before falling to the New York Rangers in seven games in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs).
It’s a clean slate this year for the franchise’s 18th head coach.
Berube has had a full training camp to reinforce his system and gets to start the season at 0-0. The players, most of whom have returned from last year, know what he expects out of them and they know what to expect from their coach.
Veterans arrived at camp in better shape than last year and went 3-3-2 in the preseason. They finished 1-5-1 last year — when owner Ed Snider called it the worst training camp he’d ever seen.
It’s been much better this September, but the Flyers weren’t without their ugly performances. After one of the clunkers, like a 4-1 loss to the Devils, Berube didn’t hold back on his assessment.
“It was disappointing to be honest with you,” said Berube. “I thought it was a lack of effort and skating most of the game. The goalie was good. That’s about it. … I’m disappointed in our veterans in the way they performed. It’s not acceptable.”
An enforcer during his career, Berube told it like it was on and off the ice and has carried the same straight-forward personality as head coach. It seems to fit the mold of the team — and its fans — well.
“He lets us know,” Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds said. “I think (Berube and Laviolette) both let us know when they weren’t happy. Chief gets on us and he lets us know when we’re not doing things correctly, but at the same time, when we are doing things right he does let us know that as well. It goes hand-in-hand.”
He also still has that snarl, when needed, from his playing days.
“When he gets barking, you don’t want to be making eye contact with him too much,” Simmonds said smiling. “If he’s’ staring at you, you generally did something wrong.”
And now the Flyers get to do so this season from Day One.