The St. Louis Blues were supposed to only need to focus on their captain this offseason. Instead, they had a hole on the bench and may soon have one in the front office.
The St. Louis Blues just got done filling one hole in their franchise. After losing an assistant coach shortly after the season, Doug Armstrong got to work and popped a former NHL coach right into that slot.
Armstrong now has an even bigger hole to fill. The Blues front office just got a little worse off as Bill Armstrong has reportedly been named the general manager of the Arizona Coyotes.
Bill Armstrong, no relation to Doug Armstrong, had been with the Blues since 2004. He started off as a scout, moved up to director of scouting and then was named an assistant general manager in 2018 after Martin Brodeur left the franchise.
The assistant GM role is not something the Blues cannot live without. While it can be an important position and lighten the load on the general manager, there are times when it is slightly more ceremonial. That is not to say Brodeur did nothing – quite the opposite in reality – but more that you can find qualified candidates relatively easily.
The hole that the Blues will really have and might have a harder time replacing is the job Armstrong did as director of scouting. While Doug Armstrong often has the final say regarding a draft pick, the Blues drafts have essentially been run by Bill Armstrong since he took over the director of scouting role.
St. Louis has been very fortunate to have some very talented people in that role. Prior to Armstrong, Jarmo Kekalainen was the assistant GM and director of scouting, starting in 2002.
So, from 2002 to 2020, the Blues have had some great scouts running their drafts. They had to be good because the Blues have not always had great draft position.
Kekalainen benefited from slightly better picks, but he was also able to draft some good late round players. He helped the team draft players like Alex Pietrangelo, T. J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, David Perron, and David Backes.
Bill Armstrong had a hand in drafting players like Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Colton Parayko, Jordan Binnington, Vince Dunn and Robert Thomas. All those players had a hand in the team winning their first ever Stanley Cup.
Now, he goes off to the desert to see if he can work his draft magic for them. His job won’t be easy as his new team is in cap trouble and also lost draft picks due to scouting violations.
That leaves his fellow Armstrong in need of a new director of scouting and assistant general manager. It also gives Doug Armstrong decisions to make beyond just who to hire.
As Chris Kerber pointed out on 101 ESPN, not all teams have their director of scouting fill an assistant GM role. So, the Blues could split the position up or keep it together.
They could promote a current scout to a more prominent position. They might look outside the franchise as they did for the assistant coach role.
One thing we do know is the Blues can’t waste too much time in finding a replacement. The NHL Entry Draft is less than a month away.
There is little doubt that Bill Armstrong has already done the lion’s share of the work needed to make some selections, but you want the new person to have time to add their input as well. It might only be a few weeks, but a different perspective might yield different results.
The Blues need to restock their cupboards. After having one of the best prospect systems in recent years, the system is a little bare at the moment. You can’t change that overnight, but the new person will have a chance to start that process.