Bill Armstrong was introduced today as the new General Manager of the Arizona Coyotes. After playing in the OHL, AHL and IHL, Armstrong rose through the scouting ranks to become Director of Amateur Scouting and Assistant General Manager for the St. Louis Blues. Having been with the St. Louis Blues since 2004, Armstrong oversaw the Blues transition from perennial playoff non-qualifiers to annual contenders, culminating in a Stanley Cup Finals win in 2019.
Armstrong sat with CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez to present his opening remarks, and take questions. Here were the most important quotes from Armstrong's first public appearance as Arizona Coyotes GM:
“He is absolutely the hardest working person you will meet. He’s a man of integrity. He is absolutely the right person to create the meaningful culture that we are looking for.” - Xavier A. Gutierrez. Gutierrez presented a strong introductory statement on behalf of Armstrong. He spoke with conviction about his belief that Armstrong can fulfill the goals Gutierrez and owner Alex Meruelo have laid out.
What are those goals?
To be a model franchise.
“We are experienced business people. We know that when you implement new processes things don’t always go smoothly... But we will keep going until we are a model franchise.” - Xavier A. Gutierrez. A consistent theme since Meruelo purchased the Coyotes has been bringing in people who he trusts, views as legitimate, and align with his vision for the Coyotes. It started with Gutierrez, and it continues with Armstrong. The appeal with Armstrong is that he contributed - on multiple levels - to a Blues organization that rose to prominence from the same position the Coyotes sit right now. Armstrong started at the bottom of the Blues front office, and his upward trajectory correlated with the team's rise.
How much appeal was there for Armstrong?
“I’d run through a wall for this guy.” - Alex Meruelo, in a text to Gutierrez 15 minutes into their interview with Armstrong. Meruelo emphasized his appreciation for Armstrong's leadership and vision.
What is that vision?
“We need to have a culture of collaboration. We need to hire smart hockey people.” - Bill Armstrong, emphasizing that his first job as GM is not to change the on-ice product, but to restructure the front office in his vision.
Armstrong believes his specialty is building a staff, and he believes he has the right ownership to empower him to do so.
“I like challenges. My forte is building the off-ice team. This franchise, we’ve got ownership that’s committed." - Bill Armstrong, who also said that if you look at how much money Alex Meruelo spent over the past year, it is clear he is committed to building a winner.
Why is building the off-ice team Armstrong's forte? He believes his rise through the Blues organization makes him uniquely qualified to hire the right people at each front office position.
“I’m here at the right time. I’ve done all the steps. I can sit with every room. I can go to the coaches room. I can go to the scouts room.” - Bill Armstrong.
Will that start with the upcoming NHL draft in October?
“We’ve got people in place...Talented hockey people behind the scenes and some new people coming in... I cannot be involved in the draft, so I’m stepping aside.” - Based on a precious arrangement Armstrong made with the Blues, Armstrong technically cannot be involved with this year's Coyotes draft. What are the exact limitations, and how will they be enforced? We'll see...
What about Rick Tocchet?
"I was a big fan of his growing up.... We’ve been able to kind of merge a relationship through texts... The most important relationship you can have is with your coach, so I’m looking forward to building that... He’s a good coach.” - Armstrong seemed smitten with his head coach, and intent on developing that relationship.
How does Armstrong feel about being in the Valley of the Sun?
“I won championships at three different levels... I didn't come here, all the way to the desert to get a tan. I came here to win a championship."