2012 GM of the Year to remain with club through 2017-18
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The reigning general manager of the year will be staying in St. Louis for a while longer.
And new chairman Tom Stillman had absolutely qualms about whether this was the right time to extend Doug Armstrong's contract or not.
The Blues announced that they have signed Armstrong to a five-year extension that will keep the 48-year-old in the fold with the Blues through the 2017-18 season.
"I just thought this was very important to the future of the Blues’ franchise," said Stillman, who bought the Blues with a group of investors in last May. "Doug has just been recognized by his peers as the best general manager in the National Hockey League, and that is solidly backed by the work that he has done here for the St. Louis Blues.
"I think the five-year term is important for two reasons. First, he's an outstanding general manager, so we want to make sure he’s with us for a longer period. And second, I think you have to give him time to do his work and to develop the team he wants to develop."
Armstrong was named the the Blues' vice president and 11th general manager in franchise history on July 1, 2010 after serving two seasons as their vice president of player personnel.
Armstrong spent 17 years in the Dallas/Minnesota organization as an assistant GM and the Stars' GM from 2002-2007 before being relieved of his duties.
"It’s certainly an exciting time for myself and my family," Armstrong said. "I’ve really only been with two organizations and I’m excited to be here for another five years and hopefully a lot longer than that. We believe that we’re on the right track.
"A lot of people have put in a lot of hard work. (Former amateur scouting director) Jarmo Kekalainen and Larry Pleau and John Davidson and now there’s a group in here now that (is) looking to continue what they’ve started and take it to the next level. It’s just an exciting time to be part of this organization."
News filtered quickly into the Blues' locker room after practice Wednesday, and all were appreciative and supportive and consider it a well-deserved contract for Armstrong.
"It gives him a great chance to see what he's built come to fruition," said captain David Backes, who was rewarded by Armstrong with a five-year contract prior to last season. "He turned us from kind of a team that was toiling and trying to rebuild into a legit team last year and some see us as a playoff contender for sure and hopefully playing deep into what's going to be late June now."
Added defenseman Barret Jackman, who got a three-year deal from Armstrong this past summer: "He's a very bright and a very patient GM. I think he really knows what it takes throughout the organization. It's not just in the dressing room or on the ice. It's building a team around him. ... He's done a tremendous job of sticking with youth and putting key pieces in that are really going to help bring everybody together.
"I've had plenty of conversations with him before we even got into contract talk. He's straightforward. He asks you what you want out of your career and he tells you where you would fit within the organization. He's very straightforward but he's very personable about it. It makes things very easy to deal with and you're comfortable talking about anything."
The Blues transformed into one of the NHL's elite teams a season ago by going 49-22-11 (109 points) and finishing second in the Western Conference behind Vancouver. They lost in the second round of the playoffs to the Los Angeles Kings but the feeling is this could be a formidable franchise for years to come and Armstrong would like to continue to be the orchestrator.
"The reality is, this is a very good franchise," Armstrong said. "And one of the reasons when I was looking to join (in 2008), I looked at a team that seemed to have a bright future and some pieces in place that you could go and manipulate and work with, and build a championship-contending team.
"The people before me put those pieces in place and we’ve added to that and moved some pieces around. But if you’re looking at a team on paper that has the nucleus to be competitive for the next five years and beyond, there’s not many teams in a better situation with personnel than St. Louis. That doesn’t mean anything unless we get it done on the ice. But I know that we have a committed ownership group that’s going to give us the resources to continue to push."
Talks between Armstrong, who had one year remaining on his contract through June 30, and Stillman began some time ago but got really serious over the summer and it didn't take long to consummate a deal.
"I have spent a lot of time talking and working with Doug over the last several months," Stillman said. "I just have a very high level of trust in his ability to manage the team and the entire hockey operations side of the franchise."
Some of the deals Armstrong has been behind have included the trades for Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk and Kris Russell. He also brought coach Ken Hitchcock into the fold (the two worked previously when Hitchcock was coaching Dallas) and also signed contract extensions with Backes, T.J. Oshie, David Perron, Jackman, Roman Polak and Alex Steen.
"I personally have come here to win a Stanley Cup and we haven’t done that yet," Armstrong said. "We’ve made really good strides and I think we’re in a good spot. But until we win the ultimate prize then we haven’t accomplished what we came here to do yet.
"But from a personal standpoint, a place to have my kids go to high school and graduate from is going to be very important. My wife and I love the atmosphere in the city; you really feel like it is a smaller community, where in the NHL that’s sometimes hard to find. We have it here. So from a personal standpoint, we couldn’t have asked for anything more than we've gotten."
The Blues are 87-60-22 in Armstrong's two seasons as GM.