The St. Louis Blues received some good news prior to their Game 4 win over the San Jose Sharks. Doug Armstrong’s construction of this team is being recognized by the NHL.
So, like the team he constructed, St. Louis Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong has been named a finalist for the General Manager of the Year Award. It is given to the “general manager who best excelled at his role during the regular season.”
This might come as a shock to some Blues fans since they seem to think Armstrong is one of the worst general managers in the league. Of course, this is not specific to Blues fans. Almost every fan base in the NHL and all sports thinks their GM or president or ownership group is not doing things right or not doing enough.
Even if you take away the Blues struggles during much of the early part of 2018-19, any check of social media would likely have included plenty of bashing of the longtime Blues boss. For some reason, there are tons of people that think they could do better or others are doing better. Funny how things work out.
When the Nashville Predators started making moves left and right, Blues fans were all a little wet on the chin from drool. They wanted Armstrong to start making all the deadline deals and picking up the biggest free agents in the summer.
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It did not matter how financially responsible any of it would have been. They demanded action. Armstrong did very little at each deadline other than a few shrewd moves for draft picks or an insurance piece.
Interestingly, while some want the Blues GM to spend wildly, others rail on the contracts he has given out. If I put myself anywhere, it would be in that camp as Armstrong has overvalued his own players and the extensions he has given were either too high or too long.
However, this nomination continues to prove that many of us are either wrong or just have unrealistic expectations. Armstrong has put together some of the most successful Blues teams in recent history, even if they have yet to win the big one or be as dominant as we would like.
While this is not an award for anything but this one season, it is hard not to look at the success Armstrong has had. Under his watch, the Blues have failed to get 90-plus points only twice and one of those was in a lockout shortened season.
The team has only missed the playoffs three times and made the conference finals twice. Also, even those of us that dislike some of the contracts he has given out have to marvel at his ability to get rid of them.
In two consecutive summers, Army got rid of albatross contracts like Jori Lehtera, Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka. Instead of just jettisoning salary, he managed to bring in Ryan O’Reilly and Brayden Schenn, both upgrades from the players let go in every way.
In addition to adding O’Reilly this past summer, Armstrong also signed Tyler Bozak and brought David Perron back to the team. These were not widely hailed as fantastic moves at the time, but all three have played integral parts to getting the Blues where they are this season.
So, while we all have our opinions on the team and how it is run, this continues to prove that fans are fans for a reason. We do not always know everything.
The main thing holding Armstrong back from winning this award is his competition. While this is not a postseason award, all three finalists had teams that made the conference finals. Boston’s Don Sweeney and Carolina’s Don Waddell round out the trio.
I almost wonder if Waddell has the inside edge given how low the expectations were for the Hurricanes, but each man has their case. Armstrong’s is likely based on bringing in some high profile additions and winning the summer.
This award will be handed out at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas, June 19.