The St. Louis Blues essentially waved the white flag on their season earlier this month when they traded top forwards Vladimir Tarasenko to the New York Rangers and Ryan O'Reilly to the Toronto Maple Leafs in back-to-back weeks.
St. Louis sits 11 points back of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference with 24 games remaining and would have to jump three teams to qualify for the postseason.
Blues head coach Craig Berube seems to be taking a hard-line approach to motivating the players who remain in St. Louis, and did not mince words in his postgame press conference following Thursday's 3-2 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks. Berube specifically took aim at his top players, going as far as questioning their commitment to the franchise.
"A lot of our best players aren't doing their job," Berube told reporters.
When asked why he thinks that's the case, he curtly responded, "I don't know, you'll have to ask them. I guess they don't care about the team."
After a series of yes or no answers, the 57-year-old doubled down and blasted his best players for a lack of heart.
"Our best players don't play with any passion, no emotion and no inspiration at all," Berube said. "They don't play inspired hockey. You cannot play in this league without emotion, grit, being inspired. They're getting paid lots of money and they're not doing the job. End of story."
Craig Berube on what's going wrong for the #stlblues right now: "A lot of our best players not doing the job."
In response to @jthom1 asking why that's the case: "I don't know, you'll have to ask them, Jim. I guess they don't care about the team." pic.twitter.com/zS5iDGradb
— Bally Sports Midwest (@BallySportsMW) February 24, 2023
Blues forward Robert Thomas took exception to his coach's comments, denying that there is any contempt in the locker room.
"I've been a part of this team for a long time, and what he said couldn't be further from the truth," Thomas told reporters.
Berube didn't name all the players he was referring to, but pointed out top-line forwards Jordan Kyrou and Thomas as two of them. The coach did shower praise on Alexei Toropchenko, who scored one of the Blues' two goals and blocked four shots in the contest. Berube also acknowledged goaltender Jordan Binnington, forward Pavel Buchnevich and defenseman Tyler Tucker for their efforts.
Whether Berube's motivational tactics will have a positive or negative impact remains to be seen, but the Blues' next chance to prove they can play "inspired hockey" throughout the lineup comes Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.