The St. Louis Blues sit today atop the NHL with 94 points in 64 games. Much of their success this season has been the result of a roster four lines deep at the forward positions and possibly the best top-four defensive unit in all of hockey. None of this has transpired by chance or luck. It’s the result hard work and brilliant managing by the Blues GM, Doug Armstrong and his staff.
St. Louis area media outlets have been talking a lot about the success of the biggest professional sports organization in town, the St. Louis Cardinals as they have begun Spring Training and their quest for another World Series title. The “Cardinal Way” is a term used to describe the method by which the Cards have built a dynastic team and if you look closely, Armstrong and Blues seem to have followed a similar recipe to get to the top this year.
The “Cardinal Way” is a mantra followed by the front office, coaches, and players that has led to the second most MLB championships in the league. They have built a base of pitching prospects that just keeps rolling out fresh new arms. The Cards have inked their most important pieces to long term deals. Their roster is rich with clutch hitters and shutdown defense, both home-grown talent and strategic free-agent acquisitions.
While the Blues have yet to achieve their ultimate goal, that of bringing Lord Stanley’s Cup to St. Louis, the team has been meticulously crafted by Armstrong and his cadre of coaches and staff to resemble a winner, and the squad wins because the players have bought into how the system works.
New owner Tom Stillman has put money into this team, but the Blues are competing with big market clubs like those in New York and Los Angeles by creating a solid base of young talent, adding players through the draft, gaining picks and veterans through well-timed trades, and locking down the core of their team for multiple years to come. Army has managed this without breaking the bank.
The Blues boast a group of young talent the likes of which most other NHL teams can only dream about: Vladi Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Alex Pietrangelo, T.J. Oshie- most of their roster and come up through the St. Louis ranks. Add key players like Jay Bouwmeester, Kevin Shattenkirk, Alexander Steen and Vladimir Sobotka and you have a formidable bunch indeed.
This seasons blockbuster deal to bring Ryan Miller and Steve Ott into the mix puts the Blues as odds-on favorites to win the Cup. Both Miller and Ott have settled in comfortably in their first four games and Sobie will return soon from the IR. All three of them, as well as Schwartz, Roy, Morrow, Patrik Berglund and backup goaltender Brian Elliott will be UFA’s for 2014-15.
But St. Louis doesn’t worry about filling all of those positions. They have guys like Dmitrij Jaskin and Ty Rattie, Chris Porter and Jake Allen, waiting in the wings (in Chicago of the AHL) to come in and play important roles in the future of this team. The Blues will likely sign Miller to a new deal to anchor a few winning seasons, and obviously fans want to see most of those guys return, but the Blues are uniquely positioned with Doug Armstrong at the helm to make the right choices for the team’s success, both today and for the future.