St. Louis Blues: Nobody Should Be Surprised Doug Armstrong Stays

May 7, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues players shake hands following a 3-1 Predators win in game six of the second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
May 7, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues players shake hands following a 3-1 Predators win in game six of the second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Blues had a letdown for some fans by not taking the next step from a Western Conference Finals to Stanley Cup Final. However, anyone shocked by Doug Armstrong staying needs to reevaluate their beliefs.

Whether you love him or hate him, or are somewhere in the middle, you had to know that Doug Armstrong was going nowhere. The St. Louis Blues general manager has been a bit of a controversial figure, but given his overall record and contract status, the chance of him being let go was minimal.

When the 2016-17 season began, there was a very vocal section of fans that said it was championship or bust for Armstrong. Even those that acknowledged that was short sighted, figured the Blues had to at least return to the conference finals for him to stick around.

All nonsense. The Blues are indeed a team trying to win a championship, despite what some argue. However, this belief that all other general managers make big deals while Armstrong sits on his hands is just wrong too.

We can argue until the cows come home about his track record, but the guy is doing what he thinks is best. He shares a view with the owner, that the long-term is important, and that makes it hard for change to occur.

Unless Blues owner Tom Stillman had some ace up his sleeve, there was no sense in removing Armstrong from his post. It would cost the team too much.

They already had to buy out the end of Ken Hitchcock’s contract. Granted, that was only a few months worth of time, but when the Blues are an organization trying to put every dollar into the squad, every dollar counts.

With only one year remaining on Armstrong’s deal, it does make sense to let him fulfill the contract. If no progress is made after the 2017-18 season, the Blues can let him walk with no penalty. They also get another year to give Martin Broduer seasoning, in case he feels ready to take the spot.

No offense to those that support him, but Broduer was another reason keeping Armstrong made sense. I just don’t get the sense that Broduer thinks he is ready to be the main GM. Sometimes you can be thrust into a spot and succeed, but he still talks about all the learning he needs to do. As good as he might be and as keen an eye for talent as he might have, it cannot be seen as without risk to hand him the reigns.

Those against Armstrong will contend that there would be little difference. Their main bone to pick is Armstrong overvaluing his own players, not spending on free agents and being reluctant to pull the trigger on deals.

On the surface, much of that is true. Armstrong has made very few trades, and none of note, following the mess with Ryan Miller.

Unfortunately, Armstrong made several key deals during his tenure with St. Louis. His problem is none of those players are still around.

Troy Brouwer was a great pickup. He is gone and TJ Oshie is still, at the moment, with Washington. Picking up Jaroslav Halak was huge at the time and turned out to be a deal that did not pan out. Kevin Shattenkirk was the trade of his Blues career and even he is gone now.

As much as we all want that blockbuster deal to happen, trades really are not Armstrong’s problem. His main problem is needing to field an entire team and perhaps giving out too much to his own players to do so.

This is not the spot to argue the Jay Bouwmeester contract – it was a fair deal at the time. However, it is hamstringing the team.

The same is true of Jori Lehtera‘s contract. Armstrong was banking on Lehtera building on a 44 point rookie year and being a 50 point scorer. If you can say you would predict he’d regress this much, you’re a liar.

The arguments against Armstrong have plenty of merit. If there was someone ready to take over that would guarantee more success, I’d say alright.

We focus on the negative and forget the positive though. Say what you want about Armstrong and the team he builds or the players he values. He wins.

The Blues have won more games than anyone else except Pittsburgh during Armstrong’s time with the Blues. Part of that is because he did not splurge on a big signing that would have hampered the team in the long term. That is completely in line with his owner.

“You need to keep a longer view on things like that. You don’t evaluate the performance of a top-level manager based on the latest current losing streak or a rough patch,” said Stillman.

“I felt confident that Doug was making the right decisions and looking at the long-term, and that’s our focus, being competitive not just this year but next year and the following year. In fact, I think Doug’s unusual in that he was so focused on the long-term.

A lot of GMs, I think, are inclined to be focused on what’s going to keep my job next year and the year after. Some GMs would perceive it as taking a risk to be looking farther down the road even thought it might not lead to as many wins in the current year or the next year. I think that’s an important quality, looking long-term for the organization and not looking at your short-term survival.”

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Those kinds of words make it clear that there was never any chance Armstrong would be out. Unless the Blues got swept in the opening round (even then it is doubtful), Armstrong was going to be the Blues GM in 2017-18.

As fans, we all want more. We want to win a championship.

Armstrong can and does need to do a little more this offseason. Even without a contract in front of him though, he is not going to make knee-jerk moves and perhaps that’s the kind of GM everyone should want. It is not flashy, but having consistency is just as important at times.