In five seasons as general manager of the St. Louis Blues, Doug Armstrong has seen his team win a grand total of one playoff series. That lone victory came in 2012, over San Jose, before getting swept by the Kings. Since then, the Blues have been eliminated three straight times in the first round.
Not that Armstrong’s been a total failure at the job — far from it. The Blues have been an excellent regular-season team. In 2011-12, Armstrong was named the NHL’s GM of the year. And such is his stellar reputation that he’ll be Team Canada’s architect for the 2016 World Cup.
But after yet another postseason disappointment in St. Louis, Armstrong recognized that changes needed to be made.
“We entered a window four years ago, and the window doesn’t stay open forever,” he said in April.
Hence, the decisions to trade T.J. Oshie and let Barret Jackman go to free agency. Next season, the Blues will rely more on their younger players like 23-year-olds Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz.
“We’re trying to meld two generations into one,” Armstrong told Sportsnet radio in July, “but we’re also asking that younger generation to no longer to sit in the back seat and to jump up and grab the wheel.”
So, expect to see those younger players in more key situations next season, whereas before it would’ve been up to the David Backes era to close out one-goal games with a minute left.
You can guarantee that Armstrong discussed as much with Ken Hitchcock before bringing the head coach back for another season. Hitchcock, of course, is also under immense pressure to get the job done, just as he was going into last season.
But listening to the Sportsnet interview, it wasn’t hard to feel Armstrong’s mounting frustration at having so much regular-season success, with so little playoff glory.
“That’s one of the things I like about the European football or soccer. They put a lot of pride in their regular-season championship as they do in their playoff championship,” he said.
“But that’s not the world we live in here in North America. You can be the L.A. Kings and finish seventh and finish eighth and win Cups and thought of as a great team, or you can be the Blues with the best record in hockey over the last four years and lose in the first round and people quite honestly think you’re bums.”
“In our society, championships are what we’re judged on and that’s what we have to try and win.”
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