John Tavares speaks out on Leafs hiring Craig Berube

Craig Berube was hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs to get them over the hump in the playoffs. Can Berube deliver on that promise?

Toronto Maple Leafs forward John Tavares with new head coach Craig Berube. They are next to a logo for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Maple Leafs will have a new head coach in 2024. Former head coach Sheldon Keefe was relieved of duties after the team’s disappointing first-round exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Keefe has been replaced with former St. Lous Blues coach Craig Berube.  John Tavares recently shared his thoughts on his new head coach as he participates in the Hockey World Championships.

“I don’t know him at all, just connected with him via text early this morning. It’s what I woke up to,” Tavares said Saturday from Prague, where he’s captain of Canada. “Obviously very difficult to see ‘Keefer’ go, but part of the game at times, and for us as players, it’s on us to do a better job. With Craig coming in, he’s going to help us with that.”

“I’m excited to work with him,” Tavares continued. “He’s got a tremendous pedigree. [General manager Brad Treliving] sent a quick note out to myself as well, just about the excitement of bringing him in and how he can help our group. That process has already begun and we’re looking forward to having him.”

Fans are hoping Berube will help get Toronto over the hump in the playoffs. The Maple Leafs have only advanced past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs one time in the last 20 years. They haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1967.

Tavares wasn’t able to talk to Keefe before leaving for the World Championship, but he has reached out to his former coach.

“It’s still really difficult, I think,” Tavares said. “He’d been around five years with the team. Everything we’ve been through and certainly from a personal note how he’s helped my game grow and how he’s challenged me, I think back and forth you develop a lot of trust and respect.

What are the Maple Leafs getting in Craig Berube?

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov (35) skates off the ice after the Boston Bruins won in overtime in game seven of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs© Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Can Berube make a difference with the Maple Leafs?

Tavares sounds confident in his new coach.

“As time goes on and Craig comes in the page turns and we’re looking forward to what he brings and how he can help us get to where we want to get to and that’s obviously reaching the ultimate goal,” Tavares said. “It’s what our expectations are and what we want to deliver.”

It will be the third head coaching job for Berube in the NHL. Berube was the coach in St. Louis when they won the Stanley Cup in 2019.

“He’s a great presence and a great person,” said Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, a member of the 2019 Cup team. “He’s a guy who cares. They should be excited. We all love him, and it was tough to see him go at the time. Things work out in their own way. We wish each other all the best, for sure.”

Tavares has yet to receive any intel from players on that 2019 team, but he already has a strong opinion of coach Berube.

“I’m trying to just focus on this tournament at the moment, but I’m sure the odd discussion might happen,” Tavares said. “Obviously they had a tremendous amount of success with him, and even before he was hired there were a lot of rumors and they mentioned how much they enjoyed playing for him and the good things that he does.

“Excited to be coached by him and to learn and get better and for me to grow and how he’s going to help our team get to where we want to get to.”

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