If you close your eyes, you can see Doug Armstrong sitting in the home management booth at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, wearing a red poppy on his plaid suit and taking a quick swig out of a water bottle as the Maple Leafs celebrate another Auston Matthews goal on the ice below.
You can almost hear him doing an interview with a throng of Canadian media circled around him, saying the word “we” when referring to the Maple Leafs.
You can probably even envision him getting Ontario’s Original Six team, dare we say, deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Oh, and by the way, the 58-year-old is from Ontario.
So, yes, Doug Armstrong, the general manager of the Blues, would make perfect sense as Toronto’s next GM. And it’s not surprising that his name has been mentioned in several reports about who will replace Kyle Dubas, including one Monday by my colleague Pierre LeBrun.
There’s plenty of reason to make the connection. Brendan Shanahan, the former Blues forward and current Leafs team president, mentioned experience in his press conference announcing the team’s split from Dubas, and Armstrong has that. He’s the longest-tenured GM in the NHL, and he ranks No. 14 all-time in that seat with 768 career wins.
Shanahan will want a good track record, and Armstrong has that, too. Since the start of the 2010-11 season, when Armstrong took over in St. Louis, the Blues have the fifth-most wins (558) and points (1,222) in the league. And, of course, they won the Stanley Cup in 2019.
That’s not even getting into the international element of Armstrong’s resume, working with Team Canada’s management group for the 2010 and 2014 Olympic gold medal-winning teams, as well as first-place finishes at the IIHF World Championship and World Cup. The gold at the Olympics and world championships, plus his Cup with the Blues, put him in an elite group that’s referred to as the “Triple Gold Club.”
Shanahan could search for months and not find a more qualified candidate, and if he doesn’t make a phone call to Blues owner Tom Stillman and ask for permission to speak with Armstrong, then he’s not doing his due diligence.
The problem for Toronto is that while Armstrong would make perfect sense for the Leafs, it makes no sense for the Blues to let him walk away.
Armstrong’s current contract runs through 2025-26 and it’s believed that it doesn’t have an “out clause.” That means approval must come from the Blues’ owner, and I don’t think Stillman would consider it.
For the Blues, this is a temporary headline that will die on the vine at some point, and while it’s probably a bit of an annoyance, it’s also somewhat flattering, for both the organization and Armstrong, that he’s considered a solution to hockey’s longest-running soap opera.
Inside Armstrong’s puck-wired brain, he could be excited about the challenge in Toronto. He told LeBrun in 2019 that working in a Canadian market would be a “special” opportunity. He…
Read More: Doug Armstrong as Maple Leafs GM makes perfect sense — but not for Blues 2023-05-24 09:11:50