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Leafs core among ‘attractions’ to coach in Toronto, Craig Berube says

Click to play video: 'Maple Leafs introduce Craig Berube as new head coach: ‘Character matters’'
Maple Leafs introduce Craig Berube as new head coach: ‘Character matters’
WATCH - Maple Leafs introduce Craig Berube as new head coach: ‘Character matters’ – May 21, 2024

The current roster of the Toronto Maple Leafs was among the “attractions” that enticed Craig Berube to take the job as head coach of the hockey club, he says.

Berube was introduced as the new Leafs coach to reporters on Tuesday, replacing Sheldon Keefe who left the post earlier this month after holding the job for five years.

Despite calls for a shakeup of the Leafs roster, which centres around four highly-paid forwards, Berube said that core was among the main reasons why he’s here.

“The core player group is great here,” he said.

“They got some great players here and that was definitely one of the attractions to come and coach this team.”

Leafs will be ‘highly competitive every night,’ Berube says

Berube was name head coach of the Leafs last Friday.

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The 58-year-old will be tasked with getting the Leafs’ offensively gifted — and playoff-challenged — core led by Auston Matthews to the next level, with Toronto having lost eight of nine NHL playoff series since 2017.

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Berube, who won the Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues in 2019, takes over a team that lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games this spring, despite trailing the first-round matchup 3-1.

He was fired by St. Louis in December after missing the playoffs last spring. The Calahoo, Alta., native has a 281-190-72 coaching record over parts of eight NHL seasons with the Blues and Philadelphia Flyers.

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The new Berube Maple Leafs will be “highly competitive every night,” he said, and will play a more straight-forward style that is fast and heavy.

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“When I talk about heaviness, it’s not running guys through boards and fighting. The game’s changed, but you still have to be strong on pucks and you got to win puck battles. Those are priorities for me,” he said.

“Structure is huge. We got to have structure in all three zones, and that’s going to be a priority.”

Coach search has been ‘all encompassing’: Treliving

General Manager Brad Treliving spokes alongside Berube Tuesday, and said his primary focus up until this point was finding Keefe’s replacement.

He called the search “all encompassing,” while stressing “everything” remains on the table in terms of changes.

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That was the theme of Leafs’ management’s end-of-year news conference on May 10.

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The Leafs loss to Boston sparked calls for a shakeup of the “Core Four,” which includes forwards Matthews, John Tavares, William Nylander and Mitch Marner.

The Leafs recently signed Matthews and Nylander to long-term deals, putting Marner and Tavares at the forefront of change talk.

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Those players stood by one another at their own end-of-year event, despite coming up short in the playoffs and going one-for-21 on the power play against Boston.

Treliving did not reveal specific plans on Tuesday, but said the work is just beginning.

“We’re going to look at everything. We’ve got some really good players and we don’t want to lose sight of the fact of that,” he said.

“Now, Craig and I will sit down and start to dig into all of the other areas (like) roster construction and all those types of things. We’ve got a busy summer ahead.”

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— with files from The Canadian Press

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