Three major changes to expect for the Leafs under new head coach Craig Berube

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There are a number of expectations for the Leafs under new head coach Craig Berube

The Toronto Maple Leafs have named Craig Berube as the club’s 32nd head coach. With the Craig Berube era set to get underway, a number of changes will be expected on the ice next season. The expectation is that Berube’s no-nonsense, hard-nosed approach will help the Leafs get over the hump, leading them past the first round of the playoffs.

With that idea in mind, here’s a look at three major changes expected in Toronto next season under new coach Craig Berube.

Three major changes for the Leafs under Craig Berube

#1: More physical play

The long-time perception has been that the Toronto Maple Leafs are a “soft” team. The Daily Faceoff’s Mike McKenna noted this point in January 2023.

McKenna described an incident in which New York Rangers’ defenseman K’Andre Miller leveled Timothy Liljegren. The lack of response from the players on the ice prompted McKenna to write "that the Leafs can be pushed around. And that’s powerful knowledge for any potential opponent in the Stanley Cup Playoffs."

That was January 2023 and things haven’t changed much. That’s why Craig Berube’s street-tough style is expected to spark a tougher approach for the Leafs as a whole.

Players such as Ryan Reaves may see a more prominent role under Berube. The Leafs will also look to bring back tough defensemen Joel Edmundson and Ilya Lyubushkin to complement Jake McCabe and Simon Benoit. Berube has proven that toughness and grit are essential to a successful postseason run.

#2: A mindset change

Another significant criticism against Toronto has been their lack of a winning mindset. This postseason, Mitch Marner became the whipping boy for the Toronto media due to his apparent lack of competitiveness.

Jason Bukala of Sportsnet pointed out following the Leafs’ game 1 loss against the Boston Bruins in this year’s first round. He writes that Marner's performance "is a prime example of what I’m describing when I note the fact skill will be eliminated if it isn’t fronted with relentless compete."

Those comments underscore why the Leafs’ management brought Craig Berube in. The expectation is that Berube will lead a turnaround in the club’s mindset, particularly fueling the competitive drive of stars like Marner, Auston Matthews, and William Nylander.

The Chief is known as a tough-love coach. That attitude is a sharp contrast to Sheldon Keefe’s often soft stance on players, especially during the playoffs. Expect the Leafs to embrace a tougher mindset from the first game of the season.

#3: More accountability

Under Sheldon Keefe, the Leafs played a predominantly fast-paced, offense-first game. Former GM Kyle Dubas built a roster reflecting that philosophy.

However, current GM Brad Treliving has focused on a much bigger, tougher roster. Proof of this philosophy are the additions of Reaves (in the offseason), as well as Edmundson and Lyubushkin (at the trade deadline).

With Craig Berube, expect the Leafs to play a much more structured, defensively responsible game. Of course, the Leafs have the offensive talent to outscore anyone. However, Berube preaches defensive accountability, among other fundamental aspects of the game.

Will the Leafs turn into a defense-first team? Not likely. However, fans should expect to see a much more accountable squad on its own end, focused on closing out games instead of blowing leads in the third period.

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