In any sport, a team is only as good as its players. Yet, when things go wrong, the coach is always the first to take the heat.
This season has been one the Flyers would like to forget. A dumpster fire that continues to rage on, with the most recent fuel coming from a win-less Canadian road trip. As fans look ahead to the future, which appears to shed some light at the end of this very dark tunnel, they see a budding young crop of defensemen and a GM in Ron Hextall who is putting his plan in place to grow the organization’s talent and breed an eventual Stanley Cup contender. However, they also see Craig Berube, who has baffled us all with his bizarre treatment of Steve Mason and his constant tinkering of lines that do not seem to gel.
Peter Laviolette was wrongfully canned three games into last season, and under Berube’s reign, the Flyers narrowly made the playoffs and suffered a first round exit at the hand of the Rangers. Since then, they have buried themselves six feet under this season, and many question if Chief is losing the locker room.
Teams that are desperate to make the playoffs play with a sense of urgency. The Flyers have lacked such and now face the consequences. Even so, a team that is out of contention, with a coach potentially on the hot seat, will at least try each night to play hard and protect his job. They really have not played that way either.
While this is not all Berube’s fault, he does not appear to have the proverbial “fire in the belly” that a coach like Laviolette expressed on the bench. He appears quite calm, rolling his eyes and folding his arms when an opponent scores. The times he does attempt to yell, it is far too late and the damage is already done.
And why does he constantly mishandle the goaltending situation? Mason has given his best effort in his career, all while battling injury. Why is it that Berube feels the need to sit Mason in favor of Ray Emery, during crunch time, only to replace Emery after a shaky first period? If Mason, who is supposed to be the starter and is in the top five in save percentage and goals against average, is healthy enough to relieve Emery, why is he not healthy enough to start? It is clear that Mason is frustrated, and it shows in his post game interviews. There are rumors that this is also why Jeff Reese agreed to step down as the goaltending coach. Mason has lost his biggest supporter and is now left to play out the strings and try to not be a distraction to the club.
Whether or not Berube will be fired in the offseason is up for debate. Hopefully, if he is still here next year, it is after he and Hextall have had a long talk.