St. Louis Blues 2016-17 Final Grades: Vladimir Tarasenko

May 7, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (91) shoots the puck as he is defended by Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis (4) during the second period in game six of the second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
May 7, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (91) shoots the puck as he is defended by Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis (4) during the second period in game six of the second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

For all his efforts, Vladimir Tarasnko continues to be a bit of a controversial topic among fans. He is both revered and downplayed by Blues supporters. While he is not what they want, he is still what the team needs.

The St. Louis Blues fans have long had a love/hate relationship with their stars. Every since Brett Hull left, and sometimes when he was still on the team, the fans have never fully respected the best player on the team.

Post-Hull it made sense. Like a jilted ex-lover, the fans were constantly comparing whoever the flavor of the month, week or year was to the Golden Brett.

It was an unfair comparison. Regardless of what rank you want to place him in, Hull was an all-time player. If not for Wayne Gretzky, Hull might have been one of the best pure scorers ever in the game.

This is not the place to debate that though. At least not right now.

Outside of that, fans even found ways to dislike Hull when he was here. He was too open and spoke his mind too much, which rubbed people the wrong way sometimes. He failed to win the big one too, which always seems to fall at the feet of a team’s best players whether it is really their fault or not.

Perhaps that is something people need to reexamine themselves. Gretzky never won by himself and he is considered the greatest of all time. I digress though, because even I was anti-Hull until he retired. That had more to do with playing for Dallas and Detroit than anything, but still.

Now that mantle has been passed to Vladimir Tarasenko. He now bears the burden of being the Blues best player. With it comes all the unrealistic expectations and pressures one can handle.

For whatever reason, many fans (including myself and several I know personally) focus on what he is not or has not done instead of just enjoying what he provides. He is a skilled player with a slick shot the likes of which we have not seen since Hull.

In fairness, perhaps that is where the comparisons should stop. The game itself is different.

While there is more emphasis on scoring around the league, the individual numbers are down. You are just not going to see today’s players scoring 70-plus goals.

To expect that from Tarasenko is unfair. They are not the same player, even if their importance to their teams is equal.

Tarasenko is more team oriented. That is not to say anything negative about Hull. Hull had more of a mentality where if he scored, that gave the team the best chance to win. Conversely, Tarasenko does not care if he never scores, as long as the team wins.

Neither one is right. We are just more used to Hull’s way of thinking being the prevailing thought of a superstar.

Whether we agree with it in our own minds, we are accustomed to the star welcoming the spotlight. Tarasenko is not really that person and likely will never be but that’s ok.

He has slightly different priorities. He just wants to be a good father, a good person and to win. I believe he enjoys scoring, but as mentioned if the Blues won a Stanley Cup and he had no points, I don’t think he would lose any sleep.

Saying that, the guy scores quite a bit in today’s NHL. He has averaged 38 goals a season for the last three years. His point totals have gone up every season in the league and he has averaged 74 points per year the last three seasons.

When you take a look at his playoff numbers in a bubble, they are pretty good too. 18 goals and 28 points in 37 playoff games over the last three years should not be discounted. As fans, we tend to focus on when he did not score though.

That seems to be our biggest issue with him. We want him to be more selfish. He looks to pass too much, but that’s never going to change. It is fundamentally how he thinks as a player.

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Perhaps it is the fans that need to change. We focus on what he is not doing, but what he is doing is pretty special. He missed out on being the first Blues player to score 40 goals in back-to-back seasons in over a decade by one measly goal.

Of course, being negative Nancy’s, we tend to say that he might not have even gotten there if not for his hot streak when Mike Yeo took over. However, that is just his way. He scored 20 goals in the final 32 games, but went on a similar streak to get to 40 the previous year.

Tarasenko had some ups and downs in 2016-17, but that was true of the entire team. Those that think he is expendable or easily replaced have clearly not been paying attention or have memories short enough to not remember what it was like before he arrived.

We all want him to be a 50 goal scorer. 40 is not that bad though and if the team could support him more, they’d be in a great place.

No matter what the message board tough guy’s want to believe, hockey is not a one-man sport. Even the best had to have a supporting cast and still needed some luck.

Gretzky needed a super team like the Edmonton Oilers. Mario Lemieux needed Jaromir Jagr. Scott Stevens needed Martin Brodeur.

None of that is to make excuses. Tarasenko does need to realize that him scoring helps the team be better. It is fact that he cannot do it alone though.

Whether the Blues ever pair him with a true, top-flight center remains to be seen. That has no bearing on his previous season though.

If anything, the constant merry-go-round of center pairings with Tarasenko makes his current scoring progress even more impressive.

A. Vladimir Tarasenko continues to be a divisive player despite his talents and stardom. He will never be what many want him to be, but that does not mean he is not as good or can be as good as he wants to be. He just wants to win.. Forward. St. Louis Blues. VLADIMIR TARASENKO

There will be some who disagree, but these articles are meant to spur discussion anyway. Afterall, there are some foolish enough to want Tarasenko traded anyway.

Bouncing back to the player we began to see and seeing him enjoy the game again was fun. If he can build off that and continue improving, the Blues are going to have plenty of special nights.

He is only 25. There is still room to get better and he is pretty good to begin with.