Berube was the third NHL coach fired this season. For players, the carousel takes a toll.


EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Craig Berube led the St. Louis Blues to a Stanley Cup in 2019. On Tuesday, he became the third NHL coach fired this season.

For players, that coaching carousel can complicate relationships on and off the ice.

Edmonton’s Connor McDavid knows a bit about it. He has played for five coaches in his nine NHL seasons. Most recently, Jay Woodcroft was let go last month after a disastrous start.

“It’s very hard,” McDavid, the Edmonton Oilers captain, told The Canadian Press. “Professional sports — people sometimes forget the human side of it. There’s a relationship there.

“These are people with families and it’s hard.”

New York Rangers coach Gerard Gallant was let go in May. Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said those types of connections don’t just go away.

“You build friendships in a way,” Trouba said. “We go through a lot ups and downs. Going to the conference final with (Gallant in 2022), we have a lot of great memories. He’s not someone out of your life and gone forever.”

Often, key moments are tied to the coach.

“He was the coach when I was named captain. I’ll always remember these things and it will always be a part of my career,” Trouba said. “That’s not something you just push out the door and forget about.”

The Toronto Maple Leafs fired Kyle Dubas as general manager in May. Dubas played a key role in bringing John Tavares to Toronto in free agency.

Dubas was there when Tavares suffered a gruesome injury in the 2021 playoffs, keeping Tavares’ family up-to-date in those anxious moments after he was stretchered off the ice.

“There’s always going to be a strong relationship between him and myself and other guys he had a big influence on,” Tavares said. “As time goes on, there’s more appreciation, more understanding.”

Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly said he spoke with Dubas, who quickly joined the Pittsburgh Penguins as their president of hockey operations, following the change.

“I’ve probably felt that with him leaving more than I have in the past,” Rielly said. “Just part of the business.”

Seattle Kraken GM and Hall of Famer Ron Francis said players feel some guilt when a coach is fired.

“Didn’t get the job done and that’s what cost him his job,” he said. “Everybody goes into this knowing you can be traded or fired at any point.

“Nature of the beast.”

It doesn’t make it any easier.

“Definitely takes a toll,” McDavid said. “But just makes you cherish those moments that you have with your teammates and your coaches all the more.”

The coaching change in Edmonton that saw Kris Knoblauch replace Woodcroft seems to have worked. The Oilers were sinking at 3-9-1 before the move, but the Oilers now sit 13-12-1 thanks to an eight-game win streak that includes seven regulation victories.



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