Will Drew Bannister return next season as the head coach of the St. Louis Blues?

That was the biggest question facing General Manager Doug Armstrong on Thursday in his press conference to wrap up the 2023-24 season.

Will he remove the interim tag from Bannister's title? Or will Armstrong go in a different direction behind the bench?

“[Drew Bannister] is going to be a candidate for the head coaching job,” Armstrong told reporters at Centene Community Ice Center. “When we made the coaching change (from Craig Berube), I was creating a list (of potential coaches). The list was deep and extensive, and as I watched him perform and I watched our team perform, I started to cross names off that list, and now Drew is one of a very small number of people I want to talk to about it moving forward.

“So to answer that question, Drew is a now a finalist for the head coaching position and that list isn’t extensive.”

On Dec. 12, when Berube was relieved of his duties, the Blues were 13-14-1.

Since Bannister made his NHL debut behind the Blues bench on Dec. 14, the club went 30-19-5, barely missing out on a Western Conference Wild Card spot.

Armstrong reflects on 2023-24 season

"For me, the situation that I came into was tough, there’s no question about that,” Bannister said Thursday. “But when I look back at it, I strongly believe that I thrived in this situation and I became a better coach and a better person from it. This was an outstanding learning experience for me, and moving forward, I’m going to be able to take a lot of positives from this experience that I’ve gone through.

“Certainly we’re sitting here talking about a season that we’re all disappointed in, and we certainly want to be at this point of the year getting ready to play the first game of the playoffs,” Bannister added. “But when I look back at the year and reflect over the summer about this group, there is no question in my mind… I strongly believe in this group, and at this time next year, we’re going to be having a press conference about who we’re playing in the first round of the playoffs.”

While Bannister said remaining the head coach of the Blues is his No. 1 option, Armstrong said he didn't anticipate having that decision made in the next few days — but he does expect to have an answer well before the NHL Draft.

Armstrong declined to get into specific candidates, although he did say NHL coaching experience wouldn't be a pre-requisite. He also said some coaches aren't available to speak to right now because their teams are still playing.

"We certainly will have a coach before the Draft, but I'm not putting a timeline on it because it's not an extensive group," Armstrong said. "I've whittled it down to a very, very small number."

"I understand the process and what they’re going through, and when I first came in, there were no promises made," Bannister said. "I think we saw a lot of good things happen that we can build on for next year."

Bannister comments on team's progress and what future might hold