It would be exaggeration to say Bill Armstrong has been an overnight sensation in the world of NHL scouting and management.
The native of Richmond Hill, Ontario, joined the Blues as an amateur scout in 2004 and was promoted to director of amateur scouting in 2010. After several successful drafts in that capacity, general manager Doug Armstrong decided his namesake — they’re not related — was ready for another step up the organizational ladder.
Bill Armstrong officially was named assistant general manager Monday, part of a series of moves affecting the Blues’ front office, coaching staff and the team’s new American Hockey League affiliate in San Antonio.
“Certainly Billy’s résumé has earned him this position,” Doug Armstrong said. “I don’t think this is the last promotion he’s going to get in his career. ... He just got this job, he’s 20 minutes into it, but I could see him being a (general) manager in this league one day. He’s got the smarts, he’s got the work ethic, and our goal is to not only grow our players but to grow our staff.”
Bill Armstrong replaces Martin Brodeur, recently selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame as a goalie, who’s stepping down to pursue other opportunities. After joining the Blues right after retiring as a player in 2015, Brodeur wants to step away from the daily grind of an assistant GM and spend more time with his family.
“Marty just felt that he needed to prioritize his family coming from playing and jumping right into management,” Doug Armstrong said. “He hasn’t had any time off. So I certainly understood that.”
There have been rumors, however, that Brodeur could end up with a front-office position with the New Jersey Devils, where he played all but seven of 1,266 NHL regular-season games and won three Stanley Cups.
The Blues lost another familiar name in Barret Jackman, and for similar reasons, according to Doug Armstrong.
“Again, Barret understood the time necessary to be away from his family — two young children and a wife that have earned the right to have their father home a little bit more and husband home a little bit more,” Doug Armstrong said.
Jackman spent 13 of his 14 NHL seasons as a Blues defenseman; his 803 career regular-season games ranks second in franchise history behind Hall of Famer Bernie Federko (927). But after just one season as Blues development coach, Jackman is stepping away.
“Barret is staying here in St. Louis,” Doug Armstrong said. “Hopefully, we’ll see him at a lot of games. He has an open-door policy to come into the rink any time he wants to share his insight up in the press box or in the office. We hope to see a lot of him at a lot of alumni events.”
Neither Brodeur nor Jackman could be reached for comment by the Post-Dispatch.
Training camp is 2½ weeks away, but both moves have been in the works. For example, Glen Wesley, who has replaced Jackman as development coach, worked the Blues’ post-draft camp at the end of June (Jackman wasn’t there).
The team announced several other moves:
- Kevin McDonald has been named general manager of the San Antonio Rampage. McDonald also will serve as a pro scout. From 2005-2009, he was GM of the Blues’ former AHL affiliate in Peoria, so this is familiar terrain.
- Ryan Miller has been promoted to director of hockey operations, giving him a wide range of duties that include salary cap management, contracts and analytics.
- Dave Farrish has been added as a pro scout. He most recently was an assistant coach for the Colorado Avalanche, from 2015 through 2017.
But back to Bill Armstrong. In an interesting twist, he will retain his title of director of amateur scouting. As such, he will still oversee the top end of the Blues’ draft — the first three rounds — while adding new duties throughout hockey operations including helping the team’s minor-league system.
“I love the amateur (scouting) side of it,” Bill Armstrong said. “It is great to still be involved, but at the same time under Doug I get to learn a little bit of the managing side of the game.”
The Armstrongs have worked together for the past decade with the Blues, but some in NHL circles still mistakenly think they’re relatives.
“Some of the agents come up and go, ‘Hey, say hi to your dad when you get a chance. He’s a great guy,’ “ Bill Armstrong said, laughing. “Then they come back to me about a month later and say, ‘I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize that wasn’t your dad.’ “
Funny, because the Armstrongs are separated by only five years: Bill is 48, while Doug is 53.