On May 29, 2008, Doug Armstrong joined the St. Louis Blues front office as director of player personnel. It was also known that whenever then current general manager Larry Pleau retired, Armstrong would take over as the GM of the Blues. In 2010, he officially took over as GM, and at first things looked good.
On June 17, 2010, the Blues acquired goaltender Jaroslav Halak from the Montreal Canadiens. Larry Pleau was still the active GM at the time, but this move had Armstrong written all over it. This was a very solid pick up at the time, as Halak was coming off the best postseason run in his career. He was the key reason that the Canadiens were able to knock out both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals from the playoffs the year prior.
Sadly, as many Blues fans are very well aware of, this wouldn’t be the trend for the man called Army. In the last few years, he’s been ridiculed for contracts he has handed out as well as for the trades he’s made. So this is my Top Five Armstrong Fuck-Ups.
5. Jay Bouwmeester Contract Extension
Now this is on the list at number five, mainly because of how terrible it looks right now. When the deal was first signed, Bouwmeester was still a very capable number two defensemen. He would play the shut down role on the top pairing with Alex Pietrangelo. Then he got injured, his iron man streak was broken and this seemed to really break Bouwmeester. His skating suffered, and man, you can see it now. He’s much more conservative, but it doesn’t help his play. His skating has gotten much better this season compared to last year, but he just doesn’t seem to be the same defenseman he was at the time he signed that extension.
The worst part? He’s got two years left on his deal at more than $5 million a year, so by the time his contract runs out, he could really hamper the Blues cap-wise.
4. The Oshie Trade
Let’s be honest, we knew a shake up was coming at the time T.J. Oshie was traded. Regardless, it pissed a lot of people off. Oshie was a fan favorite in St. Louis, and by all accounts, is a fan favorite in Washington. Why? His attitude towards fans, and his style of play. He’s not a big guy but can hit like a truck at times. Just ask Rick Nash.
The Blues were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for a third straight year, and at the time, many believed the Blues should have moved on from head coach Ken Hitchcock. However, Armstrong defended Hitch, and in turn, it was Oshie that was shipped out of town.
Now we all understand why the move was made. Something had to change in St. Louis. It’s not the fact that Oshie was traded, but the return that puts this on the list.
Yeah, Brouwer scored the goal that propelled the Blues past the Blackhawks in round one of last year, but that’s beside the point. T.J. Oshie was a top six forward, many believed him to be a first liner. In return for him, they picked up a third line winger, an undrafted goalie prospect and a 2016 third round pick. The third was later dealt with the Blues’ 2016 first, back to Washington, to move up two spots in the draft.
Brouwer walked in free agency, Copley was just dealt in the Shattenkirk trade. And we know the story behind the draft pick. Not good for the Blues.
3. The Ryan Miller Trade
This deal made sense at the time, I guess. Questions still surrounded the St. Louis Blues in goal. The often injured Halak never got a chance to really play for the Blues in the playoffs, and for some God awful reason, the Blues didn’t trust Brian Elliott, despite really solid numbers for the Blues in his career.
So what did Armstrong do? He acquired Ryan Miller, who was set to be an unrestricted free agent that summer, who if anything was just a slight upgrade over Jaroslav Halak. They also picked up Steve Ott. Yeah, everyone’s favorite fourth-line mucker.
In return, the Blues traded away Halak, struggling power forward Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a first round pick and a third round pick.
The Blues proceeded to get bounced in the first round due to the atrocious play of Miller, and then watched him walk in free agency. Halak didn’t last with Buffalo. Stewart hopped around to a few different teams but is finally making a living as a third-liner in Minnesota. Carrier is looking pretty good as a big, two-way forward in Buffalo. The first round pick was eventually dealt to Winnipeg where they selected forward, Jack Roslovic. The third was also dealt, to Florida, where they picked defenseman Linus Nassen.
Only time will tell how those draft picks develop, but that was a huge haul to give away for the short, lackluster era of Ryan Miller.
2. Keeping Hitchcock Around So Damn Long
Everyone and your mother knew it was time for Ken Hitchcock to go last season. Many thought it was time for him to go a few years ago. Not Armstrong, who signed Hitchcock to a one-year deal, followed by a one-year deal.
He also let one of the best assistant coaches in the league, Kirk Muller, leave because he wouldn’t offer a multi-year deal. But he went out and signed Mike Yeo to be the coach in waiting, then brought in other coaches for Yeo, while Hitch was still behind the bench.
Seriously, who the hell thought this was a good idea? We know how it turned out, like many had suggested it would once we found out that Yeo was going to spend a year under Hitch then be named head coach. The players knew that Yeo was going to be there longer than Hitch. You’re telling me that they didn’t trust in Yeo more than Hitch? It was a time bomb. It blew up right in the face of Ken Hitchcock and the fans.
Doesn’t help that the team on the ice is built to fail. Hmmm, who did that?
1. The Jori Lehtera Contract Extension
Biggest fuck up in Doug Armstrong’s career as the Blues general manager? Giving a 27-year-old forward, who leeched off of Vladimir Tarasenko, a three-year contract extension.
Sorry, it’s not the actual extension that’s the big issue, it’s the price tag that comes along with that extension. Let’s explain. Lehtera is in year one of that extension right now. He will earn $4.4 million this season. Yeah, Lehtera and his 19 points this year while gifted minutes with Tarasenko, makes $4.4 million this year.
What makes it worse? Next year, he’ll earn $4.7 million and the year after that, he’ll earn $5 million. Five fucking million to leach points off Tarasenko every three games. Luckily, Yeo has had some sense to move Lehtera away from Tarasenko, but that just means we have to watch his suckage on another damn line. Wondering why Jaden Schwartz only has three goals in the last like 30 fucking games? Ding, ding, ding. He’s played a lot of that with non-other than Jori Fucking Lehtera.
So yeah, does anyone know why the hell Armstrong is still making decisions in regards to the St. Louis Blues roster? Because I don’t have a damn clue.