Blues owner confident in GM Armstrong’s vision

Posted: 01/06/2017 in NHL, Sports
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It was a season of stalled progress for the St. Louis Blues.

After advancing to the Conference Final a year ago, the Blues were ousted in the second round of this year’s playoffs. But there was still plenty to be happy about in the Gateway City.

“When you consider everything that was done and the decisions that were made, that’s a pretty darn good performance,” Blues co-owner Tom Stillman told Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Like (general manager) Doug (Armstrong) said at the time, maybe we’re going to take a half step back to take some big strides forward in the future.”

Slumping to a 24-21-5 midseason showing, the Blues fired former bench boss Ken Hitchcock on Feb. 1, replacing him with associate coach Mike Yeo. Under his guidance, the club went 22-8-2 to finish third in the Central.

Hired last offseason as the heir apparent to 65-year-old Hitchcock, the transition to Yeo came sooner than scheduled.

“Every major company in America wants to have a succession plan for their leadership and be grooming somebody to take over. It was interesting to me that it got criticized so much,” Stillman said. “I thought it was good to be transitioning somebody and have him ready when the time comes. The idea was next season.”

As for Armstrong, he’s been focused on the future since the beginning. After spending 16 years with the Dallas Stars, Armstrong joined the Blues in 2008 and was named GM two years later.

From Day 1, the goal has been to build from the ground up, where his tenure reveals keen draft choices like Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, Colton Parayko, and Robby Fabbri, among others.

That focus on the future was most apparent at this year’s trade deadline. Despite his team sitting in the playoff picture, Armstrong dealt Kevin Shattenkirk, cashing in on his top-scoring defenseman’s pending free agency after key assets like Troy Brouwer and former captain David Backes walked away the previous summer.

“I think Doug is unusual in that he was so focused on the long term,” Stillman said. “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.”

Today, Armstrong sits among the NHL’s top 10 of tenured GMs. And while he only has one year left on his contract, according to the Post-Dispatch, an extension in St. Louis appears to be all but a formality.

Blues’ ownership surely seems happy with the season that was.

“Some would perceive it as taking a risk to be looking farther down the road even though it might not lead to as many wins in the current year,” Stillman added. “That’s an important quality, looking long-term for the organization and not looking at your short-term survival. I think Doug knows that I am in tune with looking at things in that longer-term way.”

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