In less than two years, St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong saw six members of his hockey operations staff leave the organization for promotions with other clubs.
If six sounds like a lot, that’s because it probably is. But Armstrong handled all the changes in stride, knowing the promotions are a positive reflection of what the Blues have achieved over the past decade.
Since the 2012-13 season, the Armstrong Blues have the fifth-most regular season wins, have reached the playoffs in nine of the past 10 seasons, and are tied for the sixth-most wins in playoffs in this sequence.
“When you’re successful as a team, people want to look at your organization and find out why,” Armstrong told stlouisblues.com. “Collectively we’ve had this success and now our responsibility is to take this next wave of people and lift them up and give them the opportunity to take this franchise to an even higher level.”
In September 2020, Blues assistant general manager and director of amateur scouting Bill Armstrong was chosen to become the general manager of the Arizona Coyotes. Since then, director of player personnel Rob DiMaio has been named assistant general manager of the Anaheim Ducks, assistant coach Jim Montgomery has been named head coach of the Boston Bruins, general manager of the Springfield Thunderbirds and scout professional Kevin McDonald was hired as assistant general manager for the Colorado Avalanche, goaltending development coach Dave Rogalski joined the New Jersey Devils as his goaltending coach and amateur scout Garret Peters earned a promotion as a world crossover scout for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Most of those outgoing names — like Bill Armstrong, DiMaio, McDonald and Rogalski — were key elements in helping the Blues win their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history in 2019.
“All of these guys had major impacts on our success,” Doug said. “We’ve been a stable franchise for the better part of a decade, and I think when teams look to change their fortunes, they go to teams that have had success (to do it).”
Other examples of the Armstrong point have been seen in the sports landscape for decades. Teams with consistent championship pedigrees, like the NFL’s New England Patriots, the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, and the NCAA’s Alabama football program have seen coaches and front desk staff get picked for promotions elsewhere. The situation presents team leaders with the ongoing challenge of not only putting a strong roster on the ice (or the field), but also identifying the right people to help the organization move forward in the front office.
Armstrong worked quickly to fill in the gaps. Here are some of the newcomers he hired and what he had to say about each:
Pierre Chiarelli, who was named vice president of hockey operations in September 2021 and previously served as general manager of the Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers: “Peter brings a wealth of experience. He was the general manager of a Stanley Cup champion, the general manager of a team that went to the final once and the general manager of a team that won the Presidents’ Trophy. He is, I think, 13 years as a manager, so he has a lot of experience. He is someone who has seen a lot and we are able to bounce ideas off of him.
Scott Mellanby, who was named senior adviser to the general manager in July and spent nine seasons as assistant general manager of the Montreal Canadiens. He also played 21 seasons in the NHL, including four with the Blues: “Scott Mellanby is someone who has touched all aspects of professional hockey, from player to coach to scout and assistant general manager. It’s a real gem that we can bring here. He has strong ties to our community, but more importantly, he’s a great hockey player and someone we can really rely on as we try to build this organization for success over the next decade.
Craig MacTavish, who replaces Montgomery behind the bench. MacTavish has more than 10 years of coaching experience, worked as a general manager in Edmonton and built a 17-year playing career that included four Stanley Cup championships and two seasons with the Blues: “MacT is obviously a hockey lifer, sort of like Scott Mellanby in the sense that he got a bit more experience as a head coach and general manager. He touched all aspects of an organization and is perhaps one of the most positive people I have met. His perspective is that it’s always a sunny day, and he brings a wealth of experience. I think it’s great for young coaches who want to become head coaches like (Steve) Ott and (Mike) Van Ryn to have someone like Craig Berube to learn from, but also someone like MacT to see how it reacts to certain things. There’s a lot of downtime on the road – coffees and dinners to talk about his experiences – and I think that’s going to really benefit these guys as they try to broaden their horizons to become head coaches. .
Tim Taylor first joined the Blues in 2011 as director of player development and was recently promoted to DiMaio’s previous role as director of player personnel. “Tim’s evolution, I think he’s one of the best young minds in hockey. I’m glad he’s playing a bigger role. He’s a workaholic, which is very important in this job. I think he has managerial qualities going forward and as I have discussed with MacT having the ability to coach Van Ryn and Ott, I think Chiarelli and Mellanby now have the opportunity to help Tim to growing up.
With the exception of McDonald’s replacement as general manager of the Springfield Thunderbirds, the Blues’ hockey operations staff appear to be in place for the 2022-23 season.
“It was a lot of guys to lose in a short time, but we take great pride in the fact that we hire good people and that those people get this recognition,” Doug said. “What we’re trying to do is not be too heavy, but what we want to do is be strong in all of these areas and have all these people whose experiences will only help us. We all strive to ensure the Blues succeed year after year. »