Craig Berube

Craig Berube believes NHL playoffs can be done without fans

Craig Berube believes NHL playoffs can be done without fans

In sports, it’s always said that one of the hardest things to do is defend a championship. In the case of the St. Louis Blues and head coach Craig Berube, they’re left to wonder whether they’ll even have that chance.

With the league on pause because of the coronavirus outbreak, there’s been a wide variety of scenarios tossed around.  

“Just playoffs, no fans, things like that,” Berube said in a video interview this week with NBC Sports Philadelphia's Flyers analyst Chris Therien. “The league wants to get it in the best they can. They want to hand that Cup out.”

Berube’s guess is as good as anyone, as the league continues to mull over its options, including playing deep into the summer.

“Maybe a two-week training camp, right into playoffs,” Berube said. “They’re going to do what they can to get this up and running at some point.

“We gotta do what’s right for everybody.” 

Many players, including the Flyers' Sean Couturier, have expressed concerns with finishing the current season and then beginning the next season in close proximity, among other concerns. But for Berube, he’s ready to play whenever and wherever they can. 

“For me, I’m all set to play no matter what," the former Flyers player and head coach said. "I’d love to play. If we have to play without fans, we have to.

“It’s not the best scenario but people are going to watch because they want something to watch. If we can get out there and play even without fans, it just gives people something to do and watch while this is going on.”

There’s arguably nothing that matches the energy of the NHL playoffs and much of that is because of the fans in arenas. Berube said players and coaches may have to find different sources of motivation. 

“I get there’s no fans, but your motivation is you might have a chance to win the Stanley Cup this way," he said. "It’ll never be this way again.” 

Berube’s Blues at the hiatus had the most points in the Western Conference and second most in the entire NHL. Time will tell if the Blues get to “Play Gloria” once again. 

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Flyers fans, root for Craig Berube's Blues in Stanley Cup Final and please don't debate the Brayden Schenn trade

Flyers fans, root for Craig Berube's Blues in Stanley Cup Final and please don't debate the Brayden Schenn trade

The 2019 Stanley Cup Final begins Monday night and of course there are some Flyers ties.

Seems only fitting, right?

Two of those ties are Blues head coach Craig Berube and forward Brayden Schenn.

In Philly, we're not too fond of people who once played or coached here and then do well elsewhere. It's just natural. Remember when some fans huffed and puffed about the curtain calls for Chase Utley in his August 2016 return, which featured a grand slam and solo shot for No. 26?

What are you doing?! He's one of them now!

For the orange and black faithful, it can be difficult to watch a former Flyer succeed elsewhere. It might make you wonder why that success couldn't be achieved in Philadelphia, where a Cup hasn't been hoisted by the Flyers since 1975.

But if Flyers fans need to take a rooting interest in this Cup Final between the Blues and Bruins, the decision is simple: Berube's bunch.

Is there any genuine reason to have a strong distaste for Berube? He took over for Peter Laviolette, who was fired three games into the 2013-14 season. Berube led the Flyers to the playoffs that season, which ended in a first-round exit via a Game 7 loss at Madison Square Garden. Then, following one down season, he was fired as former general manager Ron Hextall put his stamp on the team by hiring Dave Hakstol.

Berube played parts of seven years in Philadelphia. He was a tough dude (still is) and Philly will always have an affinity for tough dudes.

The Blues' goal song also has Philly origins (watch the video above) and does anybody want to see Boston win? St. Louis' run has been special. Under Berube, who took over Nov. 19 as interim head coach, the Blues have gone from the NHL's basement in early January to the Stanley Cup Final. This is their 51st season and they've never won a Cup. Why not get behind that?

And, most notably, let's not get worked up over Schenn by revisiting the June 2017 trade just because he's in the Cup Final. The 27-year-old is a good player. He scored a lot of power-play goals with the Flyers. But how much better would he have made the Flyers over these last two seasons? Does he make them a contender?

Schenn complemented talent and played a prominent role on a team not there yet. Hextall capitalized on Schenn's stock with a pretty darn good trade, acquiring two first-round draft picks (and, yes, Jori Lehtera — a throw-in by the Blues).

Those draft picks were used to select Morgan Frost (2017 — 27th overall) and Joel Farabee (2018 — 14th overall), two talented forwards turning pro in 2019-20.

Prospects are prospects until they prove themselves in the NHL, but these two look promising.

Meanwhile, this season, the Flyers got comparable goal production to Schenn's from 22-year-old rookie Oskar Lindblom.

Here's a look at the stat lines:

Schenn: 72 games, 17 goals, 37 assists, 54 points, 18:35 TOI

Lindblom: 81 games, 17 goals, 16 assists, 33 points, 13:45 TOI

If Schenn wins the Cup with the Blues, he deserves it. He's certainly helped them in two seasons. But the trade was made with the big picture in mind and nobody should lose sight of that.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Craig Berube, Blues can close out Jets

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Craig Berube, Blues can close out Jets

The Blues went 38-19-6 under interim head coach Craig Berube to storm into the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Berube, a former Flyers player and coach, now has St. Louis on the verge of the second round. The Blues host the Jets in Game 6 Saturday night with a chance to finish off their opening-round series.

Below is the full schedule for Day 11 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators (tied 2-2)
Game 5, Western Conference first round
3 p.m. ET | TV: NBC | Live stream here

Winnipeg Jets at St. Louis Blues (STL 3-2)
Game 6, Western Conference first round
7 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals (tied 2-2)
Game 5, Eastern Conference first round
8 p.m. ET | TV: NBC | Live stream here