NASHVILLE - Craig Berube is in the infant stages of his tenure, but it's clear the onetime enforcer coaches the way he played - with an edge.
The new Flyers coach isn't afraid to publicly criticize his players, as he did after Wednesday's 4-2 loss against Tampa Bay. And he's more inclined to get in his players' faces than some of the league's new-age coaches.
"He's not going to beat around the bush," winger Zac Rinaldo said the other day. "If you're doing something he's not comfortable with, he'll tell you straight up. And for me, I learn quicker that way."
Berube had a heart-to-heart talk with Claude Giroux after Wednesday's listless loss against Tampa Bay. The coach was not happy with the captain's performance. Or with the efforts of his linemates, Scott Hartnell and Jake Voracek.
After meeting with Giroux, Berube - who speaks in short, rhythmic sentences - told the media that Giroux's line was "not very good. Like a lot of other guys. Didn't do a good enough job. They've got to lead the way. Didn't make enough plays. They ended up frustrated."
The coach known as "Chief" was also critical of Giroux and Voracek for failing to backcheck on a two-on-one that produced a key shorthanded goal, putting the Flyers in a 2-0 hole. (Berube's message seemed to get through. The line played much better and combined for 12 shots in Friday's 2-1 win over Winnipeg.)
Berube's predecessor, Peter Laviolette, went out of his way not to criticize his players in the media.
This coach doesn't hold back, doesn't try to be politically correct, doesn't care if he hurts anyone's feelings.
"Chief is full of piss and vinegar and I love it," Rinaldo said.
Berube has made the Flyers accountable. He has benched players for not performing (see Luke Schenn) or for not showing discipline on the ice.
"He was an aggressive player, a tough player, and a tough coach," said Rinaldo, adding that it took the players a while to adjust to Berube's persona as a head coach. "I think that's what some guys needed."
Entering Saturday night's game in Nashville, the Flyers were 11-9-2 since Berube replaced Lavioilette after the team's 0-3 start. They were 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, climbing back into the playoff hunt.
"Every coach is different," veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "His demand level is higher [than Laviolette's]. He wants us to work really hard in practice."
Timonen was asked if the Flyers' work ethic was lacking in the previous regime.
"Not lacking, but sometimes when things are not going the way they're supposed to go, then you have to step it up. . . . It's easy to say now after something was done, but that was [Laviolette's] way."
Under Berube, the Flyers are going to the penalty box less often than in the first few weeks of the season.
"If you don't buy into the system, you're never going to be successful," Hartnell said. "You're going to win a few games here and there, but you're going to lose the majority."
The message under Berube, Hartnell said, is to "play hard but play smart. That's what we're trying to do."
Players who are enforcers, like Berube was from 1986-87 to 2002-03, aren't usually students of the game.
Berube, who will turn 48 on Dec. 17, is an exception.
"I didn't think about coaching until later in my career when I was with Washington," he said. "I was getting close to the end and thinking about what I'd do afterward. I watched hockey a lot when I was playing. A lot of players don't really watch hockey that much."
Away from hockey, Berube is a different person. He speaks in a soft-spoken tone, raises chickens, and gardens with his wife on their seven-acre Bucks County property. He likes going to the gym with his three children, and he is an avid golfer in the offseason.
Because he travels so much during the season, Berube said, he and his family like to stay home as much as possible in the summer. They live in a 200-year-old farmhouse, complete with a barn, chickens, dogs, cats, and a huge garden.
As for his coaching philosophy, Berube is an old-school sort.
"I want us to be the hardest-working team on the ice. Never get outcompeted. Never get outworked in a game," he said. "I want a hard forecheck and a hard, physical team that plays good defense. That's the identity we'd like to have. We've become that, at times, but not consistently enough."