Contract Extension Looming for Doug Armstrong
As we finally move into the NHL season we might view this as just another year for the St. Louis Blues. The roster is nearly identical to the 109 point club we saw win the Central Division a year ago and the man behind the bench hasn’t changed with Ken Hitchcock in charge.
Still the St. Louis Blues are in transition. For the first time since 2006 Dave Checketts and John Davidson are no longer running the Blues. The Tom Stillman era has begun with several changes behind the scenes including Bruce Affleck in charge of running the business side of the company.
With Davidson now in Columbus the hockey department is in hands of GM Doug Armstrong. Since taking over in 2010 the Blues have amassed an 87-55-22 record. Last season was special year capped off by Armstrong and Hitchcock taking home post-season awards. The next challenge is taking the organization to another level. For the first time in years there are serious expectations for this franchise. The days of the Blues sneaking up on the opposition are over and anything less than a trip deep into the playoffs could be considered a step backwards.
With the news of the Toronto Maple Leafs firing GM Brian Burke yesterday, it served as a wakeup call that the NHL is truly back. These jobs are sacred and it goes to show how much pressure there is to win. Few markets can be compared to Toronto when it comes to outside pressure but internally every team is after the same goal.
The best people in hockey place high expectations on themselves and are driven to succeed. Any outside noise shouldn’t even compare to the pressure they feel internally.
When looking at the top organizations in the NHL most share once common theme. They have stability at the top. Look no further than Detroit, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Nashville just to name a few. There are plenty of others such as Ray Shero in Pittsburgh, Joe Nieuwendyk in Dallas, Mike Gillis in Vancouver, Steve Yzerman in Tampa Bay all who I have a ton of respect for. These men are incredibly intelligent hockey people and run their franchises with integrity.
The Blues are quickly trending forward and another strong season will only cement their place as one of the more promising organizations in the league.
Doug Armstrong seems to have things under control atop the Blues hockey department. Sure he’d like a few more Million dollars to play with but he appears to accept the challenge of running a team where adhering to a budget is more realistic than spending to the cap. Armstrong inherited a lot of toys to play with and so far so good for the Sarnia, Ontario native.
Since taking over in 2010 Armstrong has been able to keep his core intact by signing players to reasonable extensions. He’s found gems in Brian Elliott while hitting homeruns in trades that brought over the likes of Jaroslav Halak, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Chris Stewart.
The Blues have also added key pieces in the draft including Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, and Ty Rattie.
He also convinced Davidson and the prior regime to hire Ken Hitchcock even though many of them weren’t too keen on the idea.
Armstrong is entering the final year of his contract and sources indicate it’s only a matter of time before we learn of an extension. There’s a decent chance a long-term deal in the range of 5 years has been agreed to. When you consider many of the top GM’s in the NHL are paid in the $2-$3 million range it’s likely Armstrong sees a nice bump from his current salary which pays him around $1.3 million.
Over the last several months Armstrong has surrounded himself with individuals he believes can take the Blues to a championship level. He’s brought over the likes of Vice President, Hockey Operations Dave Taylor, Director of Pro Scouting Rob DiMaio, Director of Player Development Tim Taylor, and consultant Sergei Zubov to compliment holdovers Al Macinnis, Kevin McDonald, and Bill Armstrong. Larry Pleau remains with the Blues as well in an advisor role focusing on amateur players.
It goes without saying this is a huge year for the St. Louis Blues and their fans that’ve been patiently waiting for a Stanley Cup since 1967. The path down another yellow and blue brick road is just around the corner.
Word is the Blues are doing some remodeling to their dressing room as well as a new club underneath the building outside the dressing room. The club will serve as an entrainment spot before games and is surrounded by windows to enable fans watch Blues players make their entrance onto the ice.
I asked followers on twitter to give their feedback on the new commercials the Blues have rolled out for this season. The response was extremely positive as Kuhl Swaine deserves some serious credit for their production skills. The marketing theme “Long Live the Note” which connects past and current Blues has been very well received by fans.
I reported throughout the summer Chris Stewart would report to camp in the best shape of his career. He hasn’t disappointed dropping 25 pounds from where he was a year ago. It goes without saying it’s a big year for Chris Stewart.
Special thanks to Captain David Backes who appeared on Blues Buzz last night live from Johnny Mac’s. It will go down as one of the largest crowds on record since I began doing this show nearly ten years ago.
Backes, who was very involved with the NHLPA during the lockout, had a nice conversation with Owner Tom Stillman on Wednesday. It’s safe to say both are on the same page moving forward and have a tremendous amount of respect for one another.
More to come,