July 24th, 2024

Blues GM Doug Armstrong blames himself for having to fire Craig Berube

By Warren Mayes, The Associated Press on December 13, 2023.

FILE - St. Louis Blues Head Coach Craig Berube runs drills on the first day of Blues 2023 Training Camp on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, at Centene Community Ice Center in Maryland Heights, Mo. The Blues fired Berube on Tuesday, Dec. 12, severing ties with the coach who led the team to its only Stanley Cup title. General Manager Doug Armstrong announced Berube's firing hours after a 6-4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. (Laurie Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

ST. LOUIS (AP) – St. Louis general manager Doug Armstrong said he got tired of seeing the Blues being a punching bag, leading to his decision to fire coach Craig Berube.

“Your mind starts to work when you’re everybody’s homecoming game,” Armstrong said Wednesday. “It’s not a good feeling.”

Armstrong dismissed Berube late Tuesday night, about two hours after the Blues lost to the Detroit Red Wings 6-4. The two men had a beer and the move was made.

“I feel personally responsible for the situation that we’re in,” said Armstrong, who has been with the Blues since 2008 and the GM since 2010. “It’s not a great day but it’s a new day. Now we move forward.”

Armstrong said he made the decision after consulting team owner Tom Stillman.

“The players didn’t come in and say “˜fire Craig Berube and we’ll be better.’ The way we play the game right now isn’t good enough,” Armstrong said. “I think we’re a better team than our play indicates. We’ve changed the coach. If we could move, I guess, chairs on the Titantic, I guess we would but it’s harder to do.”

The loss to Detroit was the latest in a string of disappointing defeats. St. Louis entered the third period up 4-3 but ended up losing their fourth in a row. The losses came against Vegas, Columbus, Chicago and Detroit, with the middle two games being on the road.

The 57-year-old Berube guided the Blues to the Stanley Cup championship in 2019. He replaced Mike Yeo on Nov. 20, 2018, as the interim coach and led an amazing turnaround. He led St. Louis to a 38-19-6 record in 2018-19.

“We’ve built a friendship over the years. He’s a true professional. We talked a little bit. We had a beer. We reminisced for a second and now my job is to move forward,” Armstrong said. “Craig will now regroup. He’ll land on his feet.”

Drew Bannister will be the interim head coach. He had been the head coach of the Springfield Thunderbirds of the American Hockey League. He was traveling Wednesday to St. Louis from Springfield and did not attend the team’s practice.

He will make his debut Thursday when the Blues host the Ottawa Senators.

“Now I don’t know if tomorrow will be different,” Armstrong said. “I just know one of the things has been removed from the equation and that’s the head coach. When you make that change, you’re getting to the center of the hourglass and that’s myself and the players.”

Bannister will be a candidate for the job, Armstrong said.

“I will start the process of looking for a permanent replacement,” Armstrong said. “There’s no timeline on that and there will be no updates on that as I go through it. We’ll announce it when we announce it.”

St. Louis is mired in sixth place in the Central Division, nine points behind division-leading Colorado. The Blues are in 10th place out of 16 teams in the Western Conference.

The Blues rank 26th in the NHL in goals per game (2.82) and have the second-worst power play (7 for 83) in the league at 8.4%.

Armstrong also announced the Blues have hired Brad Richards as a consultant. He will look at the team’s power play and make suggestions. Richards played in Dallas when Armstrong was there. Richards retired in 2015.

Berube, who was in his sixth season with the Blues, had a record of 206-131-44. His win total ranks third in team history. He registered 24 playoff victories in 51 postseason games. Under Berube, St. Louis won five playoff series.

“There was no relief,” Armstrong said about Berube’s reaction to being fired. “He’s a competitor. He said, “˜I get it.’ He’s been in the NHL a long time.”

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

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