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Blues will overhaul coaching staff; all assistants let go

Blues will overhaul coaching staff; all assistants let go


The Blues' lineup for next season doesn't figure to change much, but it's coaching staff will.

The team announced Tuesday that it will replace all of its assistant coaches. Gone will be Rick Wilson, Steve Thomas, Ray Bennett and Ty Conklin, the team's developmental goalie coach.

"We felt having Mike (Yeo) start his first full season with a new staff would rejuvenate the organization," general manager Doug Armstrong said. "Mike handpicking his coworkers right from the start, the situation now, we felt the timing was right for continuing to build the foundation. I think for Mike to have the best chance for success, I want him to have full control over who he works with."

Bennett joined the Blues in December of 2006 and had been with the team under Andy Murray, Davis Payne, Ken Hitchcock and Mike Yeo. Conklin joined the team in 2013. Wilson and Thomas had both just finished their first seasons with the team.

The Blues fired goalie coach Jim Corsi when they let go Hitchcock in February, and Martin Brodeur finished out the season, though Brodeur is returning to the front office. Armstrong said earlier that Brodeur would oversee the hiring of the next goalie coach.

Wilson and Thomas were both on the bench with Yeo during games, while Bennett, who was in charge of scouting, watched from the press box as the team's eye in the sky. Wilson had worked with Yeo on his staff in Minnesota.

The Blues didn't name any replacements for the three assistant coaches released Tuesday, but their search may not last long or take them far.

Two of the most likely candidates are Craig Berube and Darryl Sydor, who were on the staff of the Blues' American Hockey League affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, this season.

In his first year as head coach, Berube led Chicago to a record of 44-19-13 for 101 points, a 27-point improvement over 2015-16. The Wolves advanced to the second round of the postseason before being eliminated by Grand Rapids.

Sydor, who was a member of Yeo's staff for five seasons in Minnesota (2011-16), was an assistant on Berube's staff with the Wolves last season.

Armstrong said those two, plus the other assistant, Daniel Tkaczuk, would likely get a look.

"All three of those guys did a very strong job for in the American Hockey League," Armstrong said, "not only winning the division and advancing, but in development. Players like (Magnus) Paajarvi and (Ivan) Barbashev saw real improvement in not only their play but in the mental part of their game. I think all three did a fantastic job. Mike and I have talked about those three guys in some form or fashion, but we're not just limiting it to that group right now. We'll see if they are the best guys and after a review, see who we go with. We want to keep our mind open to other people."

"When you're building a staff, you look at guys who can challenge you as a coach," Yeo said, "who can bring new ideas, hold strong opinions, hold players accountable when you're not around and have an ability to work with special teams."

Other possibilities include Michel Therrien and Dan Bylsma, both of whom Yeo worked for in Pittsburgh. He was brought onto the Penguins staff by Therrien and kept on board by Bylsma after Therrien was fired.

Therrien was ousted in Montreal this season and Bylsma was released by Buffalo after the season.

Armstrong said the team would look at assistant coaches who could help Yeo in areas where he wasn't as strong. He said he expects to have the staff in place by the NHL draft.

Sean Ferrell will return as the Blues' video coach.

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Jeremy Rutherford is the lead Blues beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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