Doug Armstrong stopped by 101.1 FM radio the other day and spoke with Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about a variety of topics. Specifically, Armstrong discussed the team's current struggles, coach Ken Hitchcock, the current trade market and future contracts St. Louis will have to address.
The interview provided terrific insight into one of the minds behind the St. Louis Blues.
Credit to Bernie for a fantastic interview. It's safe to say he was able to obtain answers to questions that most fans were asking.
Armstrong first addressed the team's current struggles, admitting it was their fault they are in a pretty vulnerable position at this stage of the season and that the upcoming stretch will be a test of character. This is the type of view you want your GM to have. There weren't excuses made or poor explanations. Instead, Armstrong owned up to what we've all seen so far in 2013.
When asked about the situation in net, Armstrong stated that decision belonged to coach Ken Hitchcock. When it comes to his opinion, he believes the net belongs to Jaroslav Halak.
Few fans blame coach Hitchcock for the current state of the team. Armstrong shares the same view.
"The one area that we’re getting great work from is our head coach. He works every day with these guys. He’s trying to push and prod and share past experiences. He’s got the horses at the trough and he keeps sticking their head in there, and sometimes they pull up without taking a gulp. And we’ve got to get these guys to drink from the trough right now.”
While Armstrong used a pretty tired analogy, it's accurate.
As for the topic of trades, Armstrong's comments reflect what fans already know. The price for a new face is extremely high. He notes that core pieces aren't being swapped, instead the NHL is seeing players swapped for prospects and picks. If the Blues dealt a major piece they'd need immediate help in their lineup, not help for the future.
Finally, and perhaps the most interesting, Armstrong commented on contracts. It's rare you see a GM comment so bluntly on a topic as sensitive as contracts, but here Armstrong mentioned that the current play on the ice will dictate future contracts.
As we all know, the Blues have a healthy dose of players set to hit free agency over the summer. This list includes big names such as Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart. Armstrong mentioned that certain players earned a raise after what many would deem a successful 2011-12 campaign. Now, with the team struggling, Armstrong said he wouldn't be able to go to Tom Stillman, owner of the Blues, and ask for raises if the team wasn't excelling on the ice.
"The contracts are a reflection of the work on the ice. We had a successful season last year and we stepped up and signed some longer-term deals with players that had earned that based on their play. It’s very difficult for me as a manager to walk down and talk to Mr. Stillman and the whole ownership group and say if we don’t have success on the ice, everyone’s warranted a 50, 80, 90, 100 percent raise. Life doesn’t work that way.”
Armstrong's view here is one that falls under the label of common sense, but it's blunt and refreshing to hear it come from the team's GM.