ST. LOUIS — There's no vote of confidence quite like a five-year contract extension.
Showing firm belief in the job being done by General Manager Doug Armstrong, the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday locked him up for five more years through the end of the 2017-18 season.
Armstrong has presided over the continued growth of the franchise. He was named NHL GM of the Year last season after his moves, including the hiring of coach Ken Hitchcock, helped the Blues win the Central Division title with 109 points.
The Blues' mission now is a deeper playoff run.
"It's not an indictment on the group over the last three or four years, you're building toward something," Armstrong said. "Making the playoffs, having a winning month is a good thing, then having a winning two months. Now we've opened the window of our time when we should have success.
"We don't want to be a cute one-year story, a team that had a great year and then faded back into oblivion. That's not why I signed up, that's not why (Blues coach) Ken (Hitchcock) signed up and more importantly, that's not why the players signed up."
Blues owner Tom Stillman shares Armstrong's big-picture view.
"Doug is widely viewed as one of the best general managers in the NHL -- in our view, the best in the game today," Stillman said. "He brings a tremendous passion and an old-school work ethic. He has great judgment and common sense, yet he is decisive and willing to make the bold move.
"We've seen that in the (Jaroslav) Halak transition, in the trade for (Chris) Stewart and (Kevin) Shattenkirk and in a number of moves during his time with the Blues."
Armstrong, 48, was excited to continue steering the team toward what he hopes will be a championship payoff.
"I'd like to thank Mr. Stillman and the entire ownership group for showing the faith in our staff and myself to give us that extension for five years, to continue to grow and to build and to bring the first Stanley Cup to St. Louis," Armstrong said. "Hopefully the first of many."
Armstrong doesn't throw out phrases that include the words "Stanley Cup" lightly. He was part of a Stanley Cup championship while working with the Dallas Stars and knows what it takes.
"We have the ability to build a championship-caliber team and we haven't nearly scratched (the surface) to accomplish what I think we should accomplish here," he said. "I know the grass isn't always greener, but in this case I know the grass is not greener anywhere else in the NHL.
"This is where I want to be, this is where my family wants to be and thank God Tom felt the same way."
Blues captain David Backes applauded the announcement and enjoys Armstrong's no-nonsense approach.
One of Armstrong's signature moves is making players prove themselves with short-term contracts before earning a long-term extension. Players like Backes, T.J. Oshie, David Perron and others were part of that plan.
"With him if you want to talk to him and see where you stand, he'll tell you right to your face you're fighting for a spot ... sorry you're going to the minors ... this is what we're thinking," Backes said. "You don't have to decode anything. It's a stand-up way of doing things and I think all the guys in the room really appreciate it."
Armstrong joined the Blues as assistant GM before being elevated to the GM position. Before that he spent 17 years with the Dallas Stars, admittedly making mistakes and learning to deal with impatience and high expectations.
"The players want to win as much as you, you're not the only guy that wants to win," Armstrong said. "I think I've learned patience, I think I've learned trust, I've learned how to trust the players and hopefully give them the latitude to be successful. Experience is a great teacher."
That holds true for the Blues' players as well.
Their amazing regular-season run, second-overall finish and first-round playoff win last spring created a bubble that burst quickly.
They were swept out of the second round in four games by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
Just experiencing the bitter feeling of playoff failure could revitalize the Blues, who return a nearly intact roster with just a handful of additions.
"A lot of the veterans on this team hadn't played in the playoffs, hadn't won a playoff game, so that first series was rewarding that we won it," Armstrong said. "But then we saw a team that had failed before, that had setbacks in the Kings, and they were ready to push on. I think our group has learned that lesson."
Contact reporter Norm Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2454.