Wild West: General Manager Ratings – St. Louis Blues
In part 10 of our look at the Western Conference GMs, we will look at Doug Armstrong in St. Louis. Before St. Louis he was the Assistant GM in Dallas from 1993 to 2002 and the GM from January 24th, 2002 through November 13th, 2007. He was hired in St. Louis as the Director of Player Personnel from May 2008 to June 30th, 2010, at which point he was promoted to General Manager and has remained for almost ten years.
5: below average
7: above average
8: top ten
Overall ratings should be based at seven being average, but the biggest takeaway should be how each GM compares to the others.
Bob Murray – Anaheim: 7.85
John Chayka – Arizona: 6.62
Brad Treliving – Calgary: 7.5
Stan Bowman – Chicago: 7.6
Joe Sakic – Colorado: 7.55
Jim Nill – Dallas: 7.225
Ken Holland – Edmonton: 6.925 (post-2009)
Rob Blake – Los Angeles: 7.025
David Poile – Nashville: 7.55
St. Louis Blues
GM – Doug Armstrong, hired July 1st, 2010
The first category, winning:
Regular-season record: 445 W 251 L 43 OTL 36 SOL 0.626 Winning %
Best result and playoffs: The best regular-season under Armstrong was in 2013-14 when the team posted 52 wins and 11 points. They posted 109 points in 2011-12, 2014-15, and 107 in 2015-16.
The Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2018-19 after being tied for last overall in the league on January 1st, 2019. The team went down the stretch after the New Year, posting 30 wins and only 10 losses in regulation time and then hit the ground running in the playoffs and never looked back. They also accomplished this with a new coach after firing Mike Yeo on November 20th, 2018, and hiring Craig Berube. It's amazing to think how close this team was to blowing things up and trading some of their core.
Armstrong inherited a Blues team that missed the playoffs in 2009-10 but had a good nucleus of young players and prospects in David Backes (25), Alexander Steen (25), Patrick Berglund (21), Alex Pietrangelo (19), T.J. Oshie (22), Erik Johnson (21), David Perron (21), Roman Polak (23), Ryan Reaves (22), Lars Eller (20), Jake Allen (19) and Ian Cole (20).
As the defending Stanley Cup champs, you can't get much higher than Armstrong and the Blues right now.
Winning rating: 9.1
Armstrong had control of the draft from 2010 on so we will begin his reign there. With two picks at 14th overall (Jaden Schwartz) and 16th overall (Vladimir Tarasenko), it was a great start as Schwartz has been a consistent 55-65 point player and Tarasenko has been one of the best players in St. Louis for the past six seasons (although injured for most of 2019-20). His return for the playoffs this season is a luxury that the Blues wouldn't have been afforded if not for the COVID shutdown.
Without a 1st round pick in 2011, the team still did very well in picking Dmitrij Jaskin at 41st overall in the 2nd round, Joel Edmundson at 46th overall and Jordan Binnington at 88th overall in the 3rd round. Jaskin played 266 games for the Blues and is currently back in the KHL where at 27 years-old he posted 31 goals and 63 points for Dynamo Moscow. Edmundson is now in Carolina but was a big contributor to the Stanley Cup last season. Binnington was the Cinderella story as a rookie last season and has continued his success this season.
The 2012 draft saw the team miss with their 1st round pick at 25th overall in taking Jordan Schmaltz, but they more than made up for it. They took Mackenzie MacEachern at 67th overall in the 3rd round and the biggest prize at 86th overall, Colton Parayko.
Once again, the Blues were without a 1st round pick in 2013 and had only four picks in total, with two being in the second round. The team did manage to pick William Carrier at 57th overall in the 2nd round and he is currently playing for Vegas.
The 2014 draft was a mixed bag, with Robby Fabbri picked at 21st overall, Ivan Barbashev picked at 33rd overall in the 2nd round and perhaps the biggest diamond, Sammy Blais picked 176th overall in the 6th round. Maxim Letunov picked 52nd overall is now in San Jose and saw a few games this season, but it appears that Jake Walman picked 82nd overall and Ville Husso picked 94th overall need to get their opportunities sooner than later.
Armstrong didn't have a 1st round pick in 2015 and their top pick was 56th overall in the 2nd round which they wisely used to take Vince Dunn. Glenn Gawdin picked at 116th overall in the 4th round, had 47 points in 53 games this season in the AHL and is now in the Calgary organization. Niko Mikkola who was taken 127th overall in the 5th round saw five games this year with the Blues at the age of 24 but doesn't have much fantasy upside.
2016 saw the team with a late 26th overall pick in the 1st round which they used on Tage Thompson who is now in Buffalo and had an injury-plagued season this year. Jordan Kyrou who was picked 35th overall in the 2nd round looks ready after two pro seasons, in which he had 58 points in 63 games in the AHL and 12 points in 44 games in the NHL. The rest of the draft for the Blues is a stretch to play in the NHL.
With two 1st round picks in 2017, Armstrong picked Robert Thomas at 20th overall and Klim Kostin at 31st overall. Thomas had 42 points in 66 games this year with the Blues and has been impressive. Kostin improved in his second season in the AHL and had 30 points in 48 games with San Antonio and had one goal in four games with the Blues.
Their 1st round pick in 2018 at 25th overall Dominik Bokk was dealt to Carolina, but they have Scott Perunovich who they picked with the 45th overall pick in the 2nd round. Perunovich had 40 points in 34 games with the University of Minnesota-Duluth from the back end. He is diminutive but has very good upside on offense. The team added a very good goalie prospect with the 107th overall pick in the 4th round by selecting Joel Hofer out of the WHL. He emerged as the starter for Canada at the World Juniors U-20 in 2020 and played well. Tyler Tucker who the Blues picked 200th overall in the 7th round is an offensive defenseman, with a big shot that skates reasonably well. He could be a dark horse pick.
After the Stanley Cup win, the Blues only had five picks in 2019 and none in the 1st round. It is too early to tell if any of these players will emerge.
The Blues don't have a deep prospect pool and could find themselves severely weakened at defense if Alex Pietrangelo is let go in free agency.
Drafting score: 7.4
Trades made: 55
February 18th, 2011 – sent Eric Brewer for a 3rd round 88th overall pick in 2011 (Jordan Binnington). Only significant because of the goalie Binnington has become. Even though Brewer was in decline, it wasn't an expensive price tag for a UFA rental that helped Tampa Bay make it to the finals that year.
February 19th, 2011 – sent Erik Johnson, Jay McClement and a 1st round 11th overall pick in 2011 (Duncan Siemens) for Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk and a 2nd round 32nd overall pick in 2011 (Ty Rattie). This was Armstrong's first big trade in St. Louis and was certainly a dangerous thing to trade a former 1st overall pick in Johnson who was still only 22 years-old in addition to a relatively high 1st round pick. The keys for Armstrong were a budding power forward in Stewart who was 23 years old and the 22-year-old Shattenkirk, who would hopefully provide more offense than Johnson. Stewart was coming off a 28-goal and 64-point season the year before and matched the 28 goals the season he was acquired. Unfortunately, that was Stewart's peak in the NHL. Shattenkirk lived up to the offense and put up at least 40 points in each of his seven seasons he was with the Blues except for the strike-shortened season of 2012-13. I'd give a slight edge to the Blues on this deal, only because the Blues had a better version of Johnson in Pietrangelo and the 1st round pick didn't work out for Colorado.
February 27th, 2011 – sent Brad Boyes for a 2nd round 46th overall pick in 2011 (Joel Edmundson). This deal looks fine now, but at the time Boyes still had an additional year left on his contract and he was only 29 years old. He was only two and three years removed from 43 and 33 goal seasons, but he was declining. Perhaps the salary of $4 million for Boyes contributed to the cheaper price paid.
April 1st, 2013 – sent Mark Cundari, Reto Berra, and a 1st round 22nd overall pick in 2013 (Emile Poirier) for Jay Bouwmeester. The Flames probably thought they were getting good value in return for an expensive player that hadn't lived up to their expectations. Essentially it turned out to be the pick (which didn't pan out), as both Cundari and Berra were fringe players. The Blues still have Bouwmeester on the roster and I will not argue that he is above replacement value at this time. It turned out to be a good trade for the Blues.
June 30, 2013 – sent a 3rd round 83rd overall pick in 2013 (Bogdan Yakimov), a 4th round 94th overall pick in 2013 (Jackson Houck) and a 4th round 113th overall pick in 2013 (Aidan Muir) for a 2nd round 57th overall pick in 2013 (William Carrier). Either proof of the skill of the scouting staff in St. Louis or a strike against the Oilers for missing on all three picks they got back in return. Either way, the only NHL player was picked by the Blues.
July 10th, 2013 – sent David Perron and a 3rd round 86th overall pick in 2015 (Mike Robinson) for Magnus Paajarvi, a 2nd round 33rd overall pick in 2014 (Ivan Barbashev) and a 4th round 94th overall pick in 2015 (Adam Musil). The Blues saved over $2.6 million in cap space with this deal but were hoping for potential in Paajarvi that never materialized.
February 28th, 2014 – sent Chris Stewart, William Carrier, Jaroslav Halak, a 1st round 25th overall pick in 2015 (Jack Roslovic) and a 3rd round 89th overall pick in 2016 (Linus Nassen) for Ryan Miller and Steve Ott. What a hefty price to pay for a rental in Miller and a 4th liner in Ott who scored three goals in 143 games while in a Blues uniform. I can't see how this is a win in any way.
July 2nd, 2015 – sent T.J. Oshie for Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley, and a 3rd round 87th overall pick in 2016. The Blues had Oshie for two more seasons under contract when this deal was made and Brouwer was essentially a rental for the one year. The deal is a bit of a head-scratcher, but the Blues did get pretty far that year in the playoffs where Brouwer shined. But having said that, Oshie did win in Washington in 2018.
June 24th, 2016 – sent Brian Elliott for a 2nd round 35th overall pick in 2016. The Blues sold high on Elliott who had a save percentage of 93.0 in 2015-16, but they either figured his play would decline or Jake Allen was ready. Jake Allen was not ready.
June 24th, 2016 – sent a 1st round 28th overall pick in 2016 (Lucas Johansen) and a 3rd round 87th overall pick in 2016 (Garrett Pilon) for a 1st round 26th overall pick in 2016 (Tage Thompson). A 3rd round pick is an expensive price to pay to move up two spots, but especially when the player you target doesn't pan out.
February 27th, 2017 – sent Pheonix Copley and Kevin Shattenkirk for Brad Malone, Zach Sanford, a 1st round 27th overall pick in 2017 (Morgan Frost). Shattenkirk was to become a UFA in July, so the Blues got fairly good value in a 1st round pick and Zach Sanford who has become a very useful player for them. Copley is back in the AHL after spending the whole 2018-19 season in the NHL as the Capitals backup goalie.
June 23rd, 2017 – sent Ryan Reaves and a 2nd round 51st overall pick in 2017 (Zachary Lauzon) for Oskar Sundqvist and a 1st round 31st overall pick in 2017 (Klim Kostin). A good return for Reaves in Sundqvist who had a very good playoff last season in addition to the late 1st round pick.
June 23rd, 2017 – sent Jori Lehtera, a 1st round 27th overall pick in 2017 (Morgan Frost) and a 1st round 14th overall pick in 2018 (Joel Farabee) for Brayden Schenn. An expensive price to be sure, but Schenn has been as advertised in his three seasons with the Blues and was an important factor in their playoff success. They did unload a bad contract in Lehtera as well.
February 26th, 2018 – sent Paul Stastny for Erik Foley and a 1st round 29th overall pick in 2018 (Rasmus Sandin). Armstrong has done well to sell his upcoming UFAs and get good value for them while keeping the team competitive.
June 22nd, 2018 – sent a 1st round 29th overall pick in 2018 (Rasmus Sandin) and a 3rd round 76th overall pick in 2018 (Semyon Der-Arguchintsev) for a 1st round 25th overall pick in 2018 (Dominik Bokk). Bokk has done nothing to convince me that he was worth the price to move up to get him.
July 1st, 2018 – sent Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Tage Thompson, and a 1st round 31st overall pick in 2019 (Ryan Johnson) and a 2021 2nd round pick for Ryan O'Reilly. Perhaps the most important trade Armstrong has made as the GM of the Blues. O'Reilly was the Conn Smythe winner and has elevated his game while in St. Louis. The price is cheap in return for what they got.
September 24th, 2019 – sent Joel Edmundson, Dominik Bokk, and a 7th round pick in 2021 for Justin Faulk and a 5th round pick in 2020. Not only did they spend the assets to acquire Faulk, but they also re-signed him to a new contract for seven seasons at $6.5 million AAV. I'm not so sure about this one, but it might give us a clue about what the club intends to do about Pietrangelo.
February 18th, 2020 – sent a 2nd round pick in 2020 and a 4th round pick in 2021 for Marco Scandella. Make that two trades that Armstrong doubled down on when he extended Scandella for four seasons at $3.275 million AAV. I'm sure about this one. He will regret this contract and wish he had these picks back.
Trade score: 7.8
Armstrong between Dallas and St. Louis is in the billion-dollar club.
Armstrong is a rare GM that has yet to buy a player out. He seems to have been able to trade some of his bad contracts, which is ideal. He has avoided the July 1st UFA mess for the most part only overpaying on Paul Stastny for four years at $7 million AAV. Tyler Bozak was reasonable as it was only three years at $5 million AAV and bring back David Perron for four years at $4 million was a good signing.
The team is top-heavy in salary and aging, which is common among Stanley Cup winners, so it is a little baffling the route they have taken with Faulk and Scandella in adding close to $10 million per year for the next four seasons for these two.
Some of his questionable contracts are:
Justin Faulk – seven years at $6.5 million AAV.
Brayden Schenn – eight years at $6.5 million AAV (I guess you pay for the first half of the term by eating up the back half).
Jori Lehtera – three years at $4.7 million AAV (was an awful deal that Armstrong was able to unload).
Patrick Berglund – five years at $3.85 million AAV (health issues notwithstanding, the contract was not a good one, but once again Armstrong was able to trade it away).
Marco Scandella – four years at $3.275 million AAV.
For the most part, Armstrong has done a very good job of balancing the salary cap and keeping the team competitive for the duration of his tenure. They are still one of the favorites this season to win again.
Signings score: 7.9
Currently, I'd have to put Armstrong in the top three in NHL if not the number one for General Managers.
Overall score: 8.05
As always, thanks very much for reading, and if you have any comments or suggestions please let me know below or follow me on Twitter @gampbler15.
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