Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Why Craig Berube is still here

Why is Craig Berube still employed?

It's the Million Dollar Question when two other NHL teams badly in need of a change in direction don't even wait 24 hours from the end of the regular season to fire their head coaches, and your team stands pat, four days and counting.

Berube may or may not have an immediate future with the Philadelphia Flyers -- as a head coach or in some other, lesser capacity. Whatever the path the team's front office takes regarding this 49-year-old good soldier, it's not going to be made on a whim and it won't be made until all the facts are considered.

The process of discernment as to Berube's fitness to continue as head coach will likely follow along these lines:

Saturday was the Flyers' home and season finale, a 3-1 loss to Ottawa which put the Senators into the playoffs.

Sunday was a day to rest after a grueling 82 game course with all the precipitous twists, turns, rises and drops of Kingda Ka.

Monday was the day for the players to collect their belongings, to undergo their exit interviews, and for certain non-playing personnel to give their closing remarks as well as undergo their own exit interviews.

Tuesday, while there was a loaded back page in the Daily News decrying the organization's supposed sloth-like maneuvering along with the requisite viral complaints from social media, was likely the day when the coaching staff will have their say.

Today, before a big announcement is made in a couple hours, is the a day where Ron Hextall and Paul Holmgren began huddled in seclusion in the West Wing armed with a map of the hockey world and the collected opinions of those who directly worked under Berube to consider.

In his column from yesterday, the Daily News' Frank Seravalli, blatant bias against Chief notwithstanding, provided a major clue on why fans' impatience is totally moot:

"[T]he rest of the coaching world hasn't been completely shaken up yet. There's no rush right now. Toronto fired journeyman interim coach Peter Horachek. Buffalo canned Ted Nolan. They are not Flyers candidates.

"Tough decisions loom in San Jose, Boston, Arizona, Edmonton and even Los Angeles after a report that Darryl Sutter was locked out of the locker room by his team after a loss. Heads could roll in Pittsburgh, Montreal, St. Louis and even Anaheim if quick first-round exits result."

Time is of the essence, but it should not be wasted nor should it be consumed by immediate reaction based on irrational thoughts. If Hextall wants to preach patience in development and practice what he preaches, why should anyone question that he'd want to fulfill that promise regarding the single most important on-ice position?

Potential candidates from the NHL will become available as soon as two weeks from today, men who have put together careers behind the bench longer and more distinguished than Berube's 161-game baptism of fire.

Unfortunately, Seravalli contradicts himself one paragraph later, stating: "It seems like cruel and unusual punishment for Hextall to keep Berube without some sort of vote of confidence by now." 

And Bill Meltzer also falls on the side of sympathy for the men in charge when he wrote: "Hextall planned to meet with Berube after talking with all the players and gave no hint of a timetable to make decisions. That is understandable, but it is unfair to Berube and the assistant coaches to keep them in limbo while waiting to see who else may become available."

If a decision like firing a head coach is not to be taken lightly -- especially given the fact that Ed Snider, Bob Clarke and Paul Holmgren have bristled for years every single time a coaching change has made and the modifiers "instability" or "carousel" routinely fall from reporters' or beats' lips -- and Berube has worked his way through the organization long enough to know how the front office works, then he knows how to remain cool until the signal is given one way or another.

The same might be said for Ian Laperriere and to a lesser extent, new addition Gord Murphy who has worked his way through the NHL as an assistant. A final decision may not be announced today but Hextall won't keep these guys on the tether so long they can't pursue other opportunities both inside and outside the club if that's the best foot forward.

No one really needs to advocate on their behalf and I'll bet my meager gains from writing that Berube is the person least concerned of all concerned parties.

If the decision to keep or chuck a head coach is anything like signing off on certain roster moves which have caused a spate of nuclear reactions from all sides this season, then there's no reason to believe it's going to be done quickly or easily. Or most importantly, to the tastes of any outside observers -- and Hextall said that almost to the letter in his opening remarks.

There's relatively little pressure for a move to be made in the offseason, with no continuation of a schedule to take into consideration as it was when Berube was elevated to the position once Peter Laviolette was suddenly deemed too deficient two Octobers back. 

Besides, any new bench boss is best served getting to know the team as constituted, once the draft and free agency have passed and any available deals to reshape the roster or alleviate the cap situation have been consummated. That won't happen until mid-July at the earliest, with a whole two months grace before training camp. Even if Berube is given the Spanish Archer, let's not start the drumbeat of "when is Hextall going to hire someone" for a while, OK?

Why should Hextall provide a smoke screen just to mollify speculation from a columnist? Why should he, either publicly or privately, offer lip-service support when that can turn at the drop of a puck and the best available person falls on the club's collective lap? It would be tantamount to Jeff Carter's agent being assured Carter wouldn't be traded four years back, then voila! a deal was suddenly in the works with Columbus.

You simply don't do the dirt like that to an employee who was part of the brotherhood, and Hextall knows this as an ex-player and long-time administrator. Lack of support or a strong comment so quickly after a season completes cannot be taken as a sign of malfeasance. Thought and diligence can't be mistaken as weakness.

So let's end with the Hundred Dollar Question: why is anyone complaining if Berube is still here?

Look in the mirror. If the reflection staring back is anyone other than Hextall himself, no need to wonder or whine on a daily basis. You're not in control. It's much better that way.

No comments: