The St. Louis Blues feel like a team in constant shift. We keep waiting for the final product to come together. Unfortunately, the man who puts the team together is waiting for the same thing.
The St. Louis Blues, like all teams, are a reflection of the people that are in charge. Whether that is the manager/coach or a general manager, they all put their stamp on the squad. 2017-18 was not the image that either Mike Yeo or Doug Armstrong wanted to project.
There was a decent amount of hope for the Blues going into the season. Armstrong pulled off a huge surprise at the 2017 NHL Draft. Just when everyone was getting frustrated and saying Armstrong would do nothing, he made one of the best trades of his Blues career and one of the best in team history when comparing what was given up and what was gained.
Sadly, that was not enough to save his season. The team just did not come together the way he figured and the depth dried up due to injury, making the holes in this roster much more apparent.
Final Grade: C-
Today probably begins a string of large gripes many fans are going to have with some of my grades. I can picture so many slamming their keyboards and yelling “How can you give him that high a grade?”
There is going to be a large amount of fans screaming to give him an F, or even a D at most. Hear me out though.
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The saving grace for Armstrong is going to be his major offseason move. The acquisition of Brayden Schenn was enough to save him and give him a passing grade.
The trade ended up being superb based on Schenn’s unbelievable season. However, just the trade itself was enough to give Armstrong a higher grade.
Think back, without the emotional baggage we all pick up in a season that misses the playoffs. Take the trade in a vacuum.
Armstrong was given up for dead. Even I, a fan that always tries to see the positive, had given up and figured he would do nothing.
Then, as the draft was going by, Armstrong not only picked up Schenn but jettisoned the useless contract of Jori Lehtera.
Even if Schenn did not hit career numbers, that is a huge turnaround. Taking into account the stats, you get 28 goals and 70 points compared to three goals and eight points for only about $400,000 extra.
That’s a gigantic turnaround. Yes, the Blues had to give up their first round pick in that deal. Even so, that is a mind-mindbogglingly good trade.
All that said, that was about the only major thing that Armstrong accomplished. He made no other moves to really help the team.
I’m the last person you’re going to hear say Armstrong is not doing enough, because so many fans have unrealistic expectations about what GM’s can do. However, one trade does not a season make.
Armstrong took the Cardinals’ approach to this year and got Cardinals results. He did just enough in the offseason to get us all excited, only for the same problems to rear their head during the season.
The Blues still have power play struggles, which only got worse under the direction of Yeo. The Blues still do not have an elite-level offense. The defense is not capable of shutting down opponents enough to counteract the lower level of goals.
None of those areas are quite as bad as so many would have you believe. Even so, they are not at the level of a championship team either.
The Blues have had a really solid run under Armstrong, better than so many want to give him credit for. Since he’s been in charge, the Blues have eclipsed 100 points four times and won their division twice. For context, the Blues only won the division one other time in the last 30 years.
This year alone, though, the team did not get it done and the general manager did not do enough to help them. In his defense, he made practical moves that will benefit this team down the road. We are getting to a point where you wonder when the future will be now.
The team left Armstrong little choice other than to sell at this year’s deadline. The only downfall is that the prospect received is unlikely to suit up for the Blues soon, if at all. So, again, it’s all for the future.
This coming offseason will be huge for Armstrong. This could have been one blip on the screen or, like Chicago, the division may have just blazed past St. Louis before our own window ever fully opened.
Time will tell on that, but Armstrong needs to start earning a better grade this summer. The Schenn trade was fantastic, but he needs one or two more of those and a dip into the free agent waters to get back up to speed.