Unless you were living in a cave for the last nine days (seriously, those kids spent 9 days trapped in a rocky hole, unaware if they would ever see the light of day again. That’s incredible, and hearing that they’ve been found and all in good health is a miracle in and of itself) then you probably know what a whirlwind the past few days have been for us fans of the Blues.
Seriously. Sunday sent us on a roller coaster of emotion that reminded me of basically every Blues playoff series that I can remember. Unlike most of those series, this Sunday ended on a positive note. After spending weeks speculating different trade scenarios, possible free agency acquisitions, and just about every other possibility, Sunday came and went with a ton of excitement, but let’s step back for a second, to an interview with Doug Armstrong a few weeks back.
In it, Doug was asked what the plan would be going forward this offseason, and the big takeaway from it was that the Blues would be active, and be pursuing multiple options. He safeguarded all possibilities, saying that they felt comfortable with in-house options if need be, but most of the fanbase left with the notion that something big was going to happen.
Over the next 4-6 weeks, speculation swirled, leading to a draft that came and went without hardly any excitement. Some fans even irate at the idea of us actually utilizing that first round pick for a guy being commonly called “the next Leon Draisaitl”. Personally, a fanbase unhappy with a prospect bearing that sort of comparison is one that is getting a little spoiled in my mind. That being said, I get it. We’re absolutely loaded with prospects, and what we need right now is a NHL ready difference maker. Someone who can change the makeup of the Blues come this October, not 2 years down the road.
But I digress. Next came prospect camp, and boy was it exciting to see the upper-echelon of everything that is “NHL prospects” and realize that it’s all at the Blues disposal right now.
Robert Thomas – inactive during prospect camp, but as close to a guaranteed sure thing as it gets, according the Blues
Jordan Kyrou – lightning fast, with great stick skills. Don’t be surprised if he gets a midseason call up
Klim Kostin – A season in the minors did him wonders, and one more should turn him into a powerhouse, ready to take the NHL by storm. I’d put him 1 year out from being NHL ready.
Erik Foley – Personally one of the biggest surprises of camp. He plays very physical and seemed to be a lot further along in his development than I expected to see.
Dominik Bokk – the new guy won’t even see North American ice until next season, but that’s alright. He was drafted as a project player, who I personally saw as a 3-year prospect…but his prospect camp made me think 2 years may be all he needs.
Fast forward to the day we’ve all been waiting for. July 1st. Or as I like to call it, the day Doug Armstrong gained a ton of respect we ought not soon forget. By 1pm on Sunday, Twitter was filled with almost exclusive negative comments towards Armstrong as a GM for his signings of David Perron, Tyler Bozak, and Chad Johnson. Calling for him to be fired. Talking about how he’s driven the team into the ground. But it’s crazy what one trade, and a couple hours can change in the world of sports.
7:37 pm is when I got the text from a good friend of mine, as obsessed all things offseason as I’ve been (Thanks Gabe)….that’s when all hell broke loose on Twitter. The Blues got their man. Ryan O’Reilly was a St. Louis Blue. For most people this was good enough for them to be praising Army…but what did we give up? Well I can tell you, it wasn’t Colton Parayko, it wasn’t Robert Thomas, and it wasn’t Jordan Kyrou. Instead, Doug Armstrong was able to trade a few picks, a prospect who, in my mind was underwhelming last year, oh and two 3rd line players who have been on the bad side of 99% of fans for at least the past year.
What’s my point in all of this? It’s not to talk about the Blues upcoming season (although I’m incredibly excited about that as well). No, this is a PSA to Blues fans.
REMEMBER JULY 1, 2018.
Doug Armstrong is not perfect. But can you name anybody in hockey who is? Actually, can you name anybody who is perfect at even one thing? (No, Connor McDavid is not perfect at hockey). But what he is, is one incredible GM who isn’t afraid to take risks, make the big splash moves, and even admit it when he’s made mistakes and needs to cut bad contracts.
He stuck to his word. He bolstered the lineup down the middle. He landed arguably the second best Center available this year, once we knew the first one had no interest in STL. Doug wasn’t blowing smoke up anyone’s ass in his interview a few weeks back. Instead he was spot on with his outlook for the offseason. The owners group told him to spend what he needed to in order to get this team back to playoff contention, and he responded by not flinching whatsoever at the idea of paying a $7.5 million dollar bonus to a player before he even had a confirmed number on his jersey. Doug proved Sunday that he is one of the best general managers currently in the NHL.
In the past 13 months, he’s gotten rid of Jori Lehtera, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, and, in case you’ve forgotten, because I sure haven’t, Magnus Paajarvi. It hasn’t been for peanuts either! He’s turned these players who have become stagnant, anchors on the Blues roster into some real assets that could legitimately make the Blues a Stanley Cup contender this season. I know it’s not easy sometimes, but realize how lucky we are to have Doug Armstrong. He’s among the best GM’s in the league, whether you choose to admit it or not. In 24 hours, he took a team that missed the playoffs last season, to a real Central division threat.
Before July 1st, the Blues odds to win the cup were 40 to 1
After the O’Reilly trade, and FA acquisitions, it’s up to 25 to 1
My point is that we’re all way too critical of Doug Armstrong, because, like I said earlier, we’ve been spoiled. Spoiled not by Stanley Cup wins, but by an incredible line of prospects, and season after season of playoff berths. If we could just step back and appreciate the success of what we have, maybe we’ll realize how good we have it, and with the monster that Doug is building now, maybe actually raise that cup sometime soon.
It’s a great time to be a Blues fan. Enjoy every second of it.
God bless hockey, and Let’s Go Blues