The St. Louis Blues have had Doug Armstrong as their general manager (GM) since the 2010-11 season. He was named the president of hockey operations before the 2013-14 season. It’s safe to say that he’s been one of the best executives in the NHL over the past decade-plus.
There have been rumors linking Armstrong to the Toronto Maple Leafs GM vacancy. While I don’t believe he will depart St. Louis for Toronto, there are a few reasons why it could make sense for him. He’s a native of Ontario and was born a little over three hours away from Toronto. The idea of managing a franchise as relevant and popular as the Maple Leafs could intrigue him. The bottom line is that the Blues need Armstrong to stick around in St. Louis.
Blues Have Excelled Under Armstrong
The Blues have been led by Armstrong for 13 seasons. Throughout his tenure, they’ve made the playoffs 10 times. The only seasons where they missed the playoffs were 2010-11, 2017-18, and 2022-23. They’ve made it out of the first round five times and won the Stanley Cup in 2019. Armstrong has brought consistency and stability to hockey in St. Louis. He’s one of the best in the business.
Armstrong is the second longest-tenured GM in the league. He will soon be the longest-tenured once Nashville Predators GM David Poile officially steps away on July 1. It says a lot about the terrific job that he has done. There are 18 current NHL GMs that have only been tenured since 2019. The league is so much different now than it was when he stepped in as the GM in 2010. The Blues need to hold onto the stability that they have with Armstrong.
Armstrong has also had a ton of success in the regular season. Since 2010-11, the Blues have had the fifth most regular season wins in the NHL with 558. The only teams ahead of them are the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Washington Capitals. All of those teams are in the Eastern Conference and are perennial contenders. The Blues have 30 more wins than the second-best Western Conference team, the Predators. Stability in the NHL matters now more than ever. There are several examples to back this up.
Armstrong Has Assets to Work With This Summer
The Blues’ salary cap issues are a mess made by Armstrong. However, he dominated the NHL trade deadline, adding two first-round picks in the loaded 2023 NHL Entry Draft. He might be the best trader in the league since 2018. He traded for Brayden Schenn, Ryan O’Reilly, and Pavel Buchnevich while not blowing up the team’s prospect pool or draft capital. Of course, Tage Thompson was traded to the Buffalo Sabres for O’Reilly and he’s a superstar, but the Blues got a Cup out of it.
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If there is any GM that should be trusted with trade or draft assets this summer, it should be Armstrong. He can either make five picks in the first three rounds of the 2023 Draft or weaponize them in big trades. His track record in the draft has been solid. He’s excelled in both the first two rounds and the middle rounds throughout his career. The 2010 Draft was his first as the GM. He drafted Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz. The 2014 Draft, where he made 10 picks, was a big success. He selected Robby Fabbri, Ivan Barbashev, Ville Husso, Jake Walman, and Sammy Blais. The 2023 Draft will shape the future of this franchise. Whether they make picks or trades, it will help the Blues find a direction.
Maple Leafs’ Power Structure is Questionable
I don’t think the Blues should block Armstrong from going to Toronto if he wants to. However, it feels hard to believe he would make this move. He has two years left on his contract with no opt-out clause. It doesn’t feel like a situation where he would walk away. When I say the Maple Leafs’ power structure is questionable, I mean it’s questionable for a guy like Armstrong.
As of right now, Armstrong only answers to Blues’ owner Tom Stillman. He has full control over the team’s hockey operations. In Toronto, the president of hockey operations is former Blue Brendan Shanahan. The Blues famously traded Shanahan to the Hartford Whalers for Chris Pronger in 1995. The way that Shanhan went about parting ways with Kyle Dubas was bizarre. It seemed as though he wanted to go in a different direction, but didn’t make the decision until he heard Dubas’ comments in a press conference. It seemed like the team was going to work out an extension with Dubas, but things fell apart and the Maple Leafs search for a new GM is underway. However, they reek of a team with no plan right now.
While I’m sure it would be cool for Armstrong to go home and manage the league’s most popular brand, it doesn’t make a lot of sense from a hockey perspective. I don’t see him wanting to have to answer to Shanahan. He has earned the right to have full control of hockey operations with any club. Either way, the Blues need Armstrong to stick around and fix this team. The mistakes are his and his alone, but he’s proven the ability to reload or retool the roster. It’s going to be difficult, but I still trust him.