Consider tonight a big night for the St. Louis Blues. Despite having to sit through a very awkward awards ceremony (as per usual), Blues fans were rewarded by seeing the team take home some pretty looking trophies. Ken Hitchcock was the first Blues award winner of the night, winning the Jack Adams Trophy:
Next up for the Blues was Doug Armstrong winning the GM of the Year. His decisions in the front office helped the Blues win their first division title in 12 years, get to the second round of the playoffs, and very nearly win the Presidents’ Trophy.
The Blues final award winners of the night were pre-ordained. Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott very awkwardly stood and waived while they were given their mini-Jennings Trophies:
The NHL Awards are this Wednesday, which of course has led to two things: complaining about Nickelback and trying to predict who is going to take home the trophies. The Blues have three nominations this year: the Jack Adams for coach of the year, the GM of the year, and the Frank Selke Trophy for best defensive forward.
As many times as Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk has won it (three seasons in a row), it should probably just be re-named after him and given a permanent place of residence in the guy’s rec room. One would also assume that the Detroit media would be predicting that Datsyuk will add a fourth trophy to his resume, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.
If Datsyuk were to win, he would tie Bob Gainey for most Selkes won (four), but it’s doubtful that will happen. Backes was the best overall forward on the league’s best defensive team, which likely carried a lot of weight with voters. Backes had 72 blocked shots and 50 takeaways, and was plus-15 while going against opposing teams’ best lines.
That’s some pretty good rationalization as to why Backes should win, and one that I absolutely cannot disagree with. My issue is this: Datsyuk plays on the Red Wings. Datsyuk has the reputation. Also, Datsyuk didn’t seem to manage to get under the skin of many other teams via physicality like Backes did. David Backes is nothing if not rough and tumble, and you wonder how well that will play with the guys responsible for voting for this stuff.
The Jack Adams Award annually goes to who the NHL Broadcasters' Association feels was the coach of the regular season in 2011-2012. The three nominees are all worthy ones -- frankly, there could have been more -- and the Blues' Ken Hitchcock seems the favorite to go home with it. Hitch took a team that was 6-7-0 and brought them just a few points away from the Presidents' Trophy. He fixed the special teams, and motivated the Blues into thinking that settling for a lower playoff seed just isn't good enough.
Hitchcock made his debut behind the St. Louis bench Nov. 8 with the club at 6-7-0 and posted a 43-15-11 record the rest of the way; the109-point season was the Blues' best since capturing the Presidents' Trophy in 1999-2000. The club broke or tied 13 franchise records, including a 21-game home points streak and 30 home wins overall. The Blues allowed the NHL's fewest goals against by a wide margin (165), the fewest shots per game (26.7) and posted the most shutouts (15). Hitchcock earned his fourth career nomination as a Jack Adams finalist and the first in 13 years; he finished second in 1997 and third in 1998 and 1999, all with Dallas.
Best of luck to Hitch. I admit, I was concerned when the Blues fired Davis Payne and hired Hitchcock, just based on past reputation. I'm more than willing to eat my words.
Three very worthy candidates are up for this year’s GM of the year: the Blues’ Doug Armstrong, Florida’s Dale Tallon, and Nashville’s David Poile. Poile is responsible for consistently “doing something with nothing” in Nashville according to a good many hockey pundits, even though it doesn’t take much to notice that the Preds haven’t had nothing for a while. They got out of the second round of the playoffs last year, went on and added Hall Gill, Paul Gaustad, and Andrei Kostitsyn — not to mention he brought Alex Radulov back from the KHL to add playoff scoring punch.
Dale Tallon rebuilt the Florida Panthers in the image of the Chicago Blackhawks, circa 2009. It was effective in Chicago, so no shock that it’s been successful for the gang in South Beach. Watching the Panthers win the Southeast Division was a treat this year, but how much of what Tallon did was effort, and how much of it was a repeat of what he did in Chicago? Frankly, ask a Panthers fan how much they care right now.
Blues’ GM Doug Armstrong’s work has taken him longer than an off-season. His tenure with the Blues began in 2008 as director of player personnel, and he assumed GM duties when Larry Pleau retired. Armstrong is responsible for the Jaroslav Halak for Lars Eller and Ian Schultz trade that flabbergasted everyone in 2010. He also found diamond in the rough goalie Brian Elliott, cementing the Blues’ Jennings Trophy winning pair. His patience with the youth of the team, coupled with the addition of Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner for grit and experience, helped turn the Blues into the patient and smart team that’s heading into the second round of the playoffs.
Add in his hiring of Ken Hitchcock, and you have a legitimate contender of a team. Doug Armstrong’s flown under the radar as a solid GM for long enough; this year is his time to shine.