Blues fans censured Jordan Kyrou on Thursday night at Enterprise Center. They booed him before the game. They booed him during the game. It went on for three periods. The only mercy: no booing in overtime … that’s because there was no OT.
The Blues responded to the sacking of Craig Berube – the popular, honest, hard working, man-of-the-people Stanley Cup-winning coach – by giving a damn for a change. And their renewed vitality was turned into a 4-2 win over visiting Ottawa.
On his first day on the job, Blues players summoned an effort for interim coach Drew Bannister. They gave their respect and commitment to the new guy after betraying the only coach to lead this franchise to its only Stanley Cup during the 55 seasons of competition.
When Jeremy Rutherford (The Athletic) asked Kyrou about Berube’s firing after Thursday’s late-morning skate, Kyrou said this: “I’ve got no comment. He’s not my coach anymore.”
Kyrou was near the top of the list of the reasons that led to Berube’s firing. The coach worked tirelessly to make Kyrou a more complete player. Berube invested loads of time, energy and patience in a genuine goal of making Kyrou more professional, scrupulous and capable of caring about anyone other than himself. The process of deflating the oversized ego of a spoiled athlete is frustrating, but Berube wouldn’t stop trying. The coach wanted to make Kyrou a better player, a better person, and a better teammate.
This was a tough undertaking for Berube – especially after president of hockey operations Doug Armstrong rewarded Kyrou with the exceptional security of an eight-year, $65 million contract that runs through the end of the 2030-2031 season.
That investment may have put other ideas in Kyrou’s head. If Kyrou concluded he was bigger and more important than the coach who strained to motivate him – well, that’s certainly understandable. Armstrong had burdened Berube and made Chief’s job more difficult by dishing out generous long-term contracts to ordinary (at best) players.
Armstrong’s bad deals gave the recipients financial security and the comfort of knowing they were safe from any meaningful intervention by a coach. Hell, these contracts were so one-sided, the players soon realized they were essentially untradable. Even if a player didn’t have a no-trade clause, why would any sensible team want to inherit a ridiculous contract?
And why would these sheltered players listen to Berube?
NHL coaches have little job protection. They are disposable and interchangeable. They are tumbleweeds that roll in the wind of management’s whims. It is absurdly easy for diaper-baby players to undermine the coach and orchestrate his demise.
Kyrou understands this. That’s why he was so flippant in his initial reaction to Berube’s dumping. He didn’t care; all NHL coaches fired.
Kyrou failed to grasp other realities.
Blues fans loved Berube because he cared as much as they did. And that’s important in our town. Blues fans can detect phonies and frauds and athletes who go through the motions without doing everything they can to justify and make good on a huge contract.
Berube is no phony. He’s the opposite of that. There’s always grumbling about the coach, whether it be lineup changes or tactics or a stubborn frustrating streak. That’s the sporting life for a coach/manager. The customers griped about Berube but never doubted his character, his competitive drive, and the way he pushed players to be the best version of themselves. On a team that has no true leaders, the fans had more appreciation for Berube’s leadership.
Blues fans know what’s up. They know who is real. Berube had their trust. When a coach’s system produces a Stanley Cup – the only Stanley Cup – he builds equity and loyalty. Fans hold him in a special place. And when the players withhold their loyalty and bail out on the coach – especially this coach – it’s offensive and dishonorable.
Kyrou – an immature 25 – underestimated Berube’s widespread popularity and respect.
Blues fans don’t ask for much, but they are absolutely devoted to the simple principle of hard work and determination. If you go all out for them, Blues fans will ride with you all the way. Their support will be largely unconditional.
Kyrou has elite talent. But his frequent mental lapses, careless attitude, and self-absorbed persona are problems. He’s given fans no reason to extend their patience and grace to him.
Not when Kyrou is blessed with the riches of a $65 million contract and the peace of mind that goes with it. Not when he currently ranks 204th among NHL players with only five goals on the season. Not when he’s viewed as a coach killer with a cold heart.
We know what Berube did for the franchise.
What has Kyrou done for the franchise?
The fans had their say and made sure that Kyrou heard it and felt it. They were aware of Kyrou’s influence in getting Berube sent away. And the icy indifference in his terse answer – “I’ve got no comment. He’s not my coach anymore” – was inexcusable.
If Kyrou is really smart, he will use the fans’ message of disapproval to take a hard look at himself and change his ways. This could become a pivotal, positive episode in his career. Kyrou can be – should be – a great player. He can recover from this, but he must want it. He must understand why he was booed, use that to reshape his perspective, and become the kind of player that Berube pushed him to be.
The kind of player that we all want him to be.
Kyrou got choked up and had his tear ducts open when speaking to the media after Thursday’s game.
“It’s definitely the toughest game I’ve probably played to be honest,” Kyrou said. “I definitely heard those (boos.) That’s not easy obviously, but I see where they’re coming from (after) my comments. That’s definitely tough. I love playing here, I love playing in front of the fans.”
In trying to clarify his earlier remarks that roiled so much anger, Kyrou belatedly expressed appreciation for Berube.
“I obviously respect ‘Chief,'” Kyrou said. “He’s been my coach the whole time I’ve been here. I respect everything he’s done here. He’s done a great job; he’s won a Cup …he helped me in a lot of ways. He’s really helped me round out my game, try to be a more complete player. I respect him as a guy, no hate towards him at all.”
In the end this experience should benefit Kyrou … as long as he opens his heart. It was a tough night for him, but something good can come out of it. Kyrou showed a side of himself to the public that many will find endearing. He showed that he cares. And really, that’s all people want to see and know about him.
Hopefully Kyrou understands that Blues fans are invested in him. They made that clear Thursday night. They are invested in him because he REALLY MATTERS and is extremely important to this team … now and now and into the future.
Because of that Kyrou will be judged by a higher standard. This is part of the game. This is how it works. This is why he’ll never have to worry about money. In return, all Kyrou has to do is show the fans he’s as devoted as they are. It isn’t much to ask. Perhaps we’ll look back on this and give Blues fans credit for helping Jordan Kyrou grow up.
Thanks for reading …
A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Game, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or access the show podcast on 590thefan.com or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.
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All stats used in my hockey columns are sourced from Hockey Reference, StatHead, Natural Stat Trick and Evolving Hockey unless otherwise noted.