The St. Louis Blues have needed a bona fide star scorer for years. They thought they had it in Vladimir Tarasenko, but the winds of fan sentiment might be changing.
The St. Louis Blues thought they had their next big scorer when Vladimir Tarasenko really started showing what he could do. The reality might be that he’s regressing toward the median.
Before we really delve in here, it should be stated that Tarasenko is still better than half to three-quarters of the league. He just might not be what we thought he could be.
To be fair, much of the pressure put on Tarasenko early on came from fans. As soon as we started hearing or thinking he was the next Brett Hull, he had unattainable expectations to live up to.
Hull was just a different type of player, playing in a different era. While scoring totals for teams have fluctuated, individual scoring is far from what it used to be.
You had guys scoring 70-90 goals when Hull played. Hull himself had a career high of 86 goals one season. Individual stars attained more, so Hull had far more goals at the same point of his career than Tarasenko.
He was a different player though. He was much more self-confident, at least outwardly, and constantly looked to shoot. Tarasenko is too unselfish and not always looking to make his own offense.
The part where the comparison still might hold true is the part we should be scared of. Hull had three great seasons and then regressed to a below expectation level of scoring.
Hull was an all-time great. However, if you remove his three greatest seasons, he scored anywhere from 42 to 57 goals. Those are still great numbers, but when you raise expectations with consecutive seasons of 72, 86 and 70, nothing else seems as good.
The same could be happening with Tarasenko. He’s had three straight seasons of 30-plus goals and 70-plus points.
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Sitting at 23 goals with 22 games, he will likely still reach 30 goals again. At only 52 points, it seems unlikely he’ll reach 70 points again.
So, we have to ask the question whether this is one bad season or, like Hull, if he is regressing to the median.
Tarasenko’s career season came in 2015-16. He had 40 goals and 74 points. He had 75 points the following season, but only 39 goals.
We kept telling ourselves that there was more in there. Maybe there is not. Maybe 30 goals is about what Tarasenko is.
That would be great for an average top-line wing or even a very good second line wing. That’s not what we had in mind or he has in mind for himself.
The usually reserved Tarasenko even said he expects more from himself. During the summer of 2017 he even stated that he felt he could score 50 goals.
Of course, that raised expectation levels. It makes the 2017-18 season even more of a downer given he’s not even halfway to that mark with only a quarter of the season left.
None of this is meant to bash him or demean him. It’s more a way to express frustration and perhaps make us all think a little. Maybe we all have to re-evaluate what we think he will do.
That’s the part that is hard. It is hard because what he will do and what we know he can do are still miles apart.
We have seen the talent level in this guy. When his mind is in the right place, he’s focused and determined, he can take over a game. For some reason, he just cannot do that on a consistent level.
Tarasenko truly is capable of being a 50 goal scorer. At some point, the argument of not having a top-line center to pair with him won’t be good enough though.
The Blues do still need to surround him with better talent. He seems to be best when he feels free, as he was early in the 2017-18 season when the team was flying. When they start depending on him to score, he tightens up, gets frustrated and becomes ineffective and sometimes appears lazy.
However, when you strip all that away, it is still up to him. Tarasenko gets enough chances that he should still be scoring more. He can still impact games and has not found a way to do it all the time.
There’s nothing wrong with being a 30 goal, 60 point guy. That’s just not what we envisioned.
Tarasenko might pop back to what we hope he will be and know he can be. We just need to mentally prepare ourselves that this might be all we get from him. His three seasons of near 40 goals might have just been the same as Hull’s seasons of 70-plus goals – never to be seen again.