The man who wanted a shot at the Maple Leafs' general manager's job from the word go now has the green light.
Doug Armstrong, who put together the core of the Dallas Stars roster before being fired last autumn, said yesterday the Stars have given the Leafs permission to talk to Armstrong.
"The Leafs are going to get to me in the next while," Armstrong said from Texas. "I want to get back in the game."
Armstrong was let go in mid-November after close to 20 years with the Stars, six as GM. The team was only four games below .500 at the time, but reports say dressing room friction had been building against him.
Les Jackson and Brett Hull took over as co-GMs, but other than the Brad Richards trade at the deadline, it was a roster built mainly by Armstrong that came within two wins of the Stanley Cup final.
Armstrong has said several times that he was anxious to interview here, while keeping himself busy with Team Canada's management group at the world championship. He said he is not intimidated by the prospect of rebuilding a talent-thin organization or working in the demanding hockey market.
"I don't want to put the cart before the horse in terms of getting the job, but there are challenges no matter where you go," Armstrong said. "Teams are at different spots on the Bell Curve, but what you want is a (consistent contender), not just a flash in the pan."
During a Sportsnet interview in February about the Leafs vacancy, Armstrong was asked about the perceived interference from the board of directors of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd.
"You certainly want to know the chain of command," Armstrong said at the time. "But I worked well with people such as (various Stars owners) Tom Hicks, Jim Lites and Norm Green."
THE ARMY FILE
NAME: Doug Armstrong
EXPERIENCE: Joined Dallas Stars in 1991 as assistant to Bob Gainey. Part of five division championships from 1996-2001, including the 1999 Stanley Cup ... Became GM in January of 2002, leading Stars to 100-plus points in three of his first four full seasons ... Fired in November of 2007 ... On Canada's management team at 2008 world championship.