The St. Louis Blues have a bona fide star in Vladimir Tarasenko. However, there is an odd combination of performance and perception that plagues his career right now.
The St. Louis Blues fell backwards into drafting Vladimir Tarasenko. The knew he was talented, but they actually drafted Jaden Schwartz before they did Tarasenko.
There have been times during each player’s career where that seems insane. There are other times, such as this season, where it makes more sense.
The funny thing is we live in such a stats driven culture right now, but only when the stats fit our own narrative. For example, there is a growing sentiment that Schwartz is the Blues best player. He has yet to score 30 goals in one season, though he would have in 2017-18 had he remained healthy.
The flip side of that is that Tarasenko is losing favor with a very vocal minority of the Blues fan base. However, he has now scored 30 or more goals in four consecutive seasons.
Obviously, goals are not everything. That is where the conundrum comes for Tarasenko and the catch-22 begins.
Even those of us that love him and still believe he is the most talented scorer this franchise has had since Brett Hull are not oblivious to things. Tarasenko is extremely streaky.
He will rattle off four goals in three games or goals in seven out of ten games. Then he will go goalless, and often pointless, in bunches of games in a row.
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It is not just a scoring issue. When Tarasenko is not on, he often disappears from the game entirely. He’s not quite the ghost that other players on the roster are, but you see a distinct lack of visible effort.
In today’s day and age, we have to come to the realization that not all players go balls to the wall every shift. However, there are a lot of shifts when Tarasenko is not quite right that he just kind of glides around, not really trying to accomplish much.
There have always been whispers of his cardio shape or his weight. There’s no real way of knowing whether that is a problem unless it ever changes.
So, all of this adds up to a disappointment in any lack of production by Tarasenko. We all think he has the talent to score 50 or more goals, but are left to wonder whether it can or will happen due to his up and down nature.
That said, there is also an undervaluing of his talents. While we hoped Tarasenko would be the next Hull, he may end up being the next Pavol Demitra.
From first hand experience, I can tell you Demitra was never valued as the scorer he was while he was playing here. It was not until he was gone from the team that his production gained some appreciation.
That is beginning to be the category that Tarasenko is in. Even though he is the first Blues player to score 30-plus goals in that many consecutive seasons in forever, there were a large number of fans ready to ship him out.
He has scored consistently, but we want more. We don’t consider him elite any longer, but perhaps overvalue what the supposed elite players actually do.
Only Alex Ovechkin currently has four or more seasons of 30 or more goals in a season. In fact, Ovechkin has never scored fewer than 30 goals in a season, making him the premier scorer in the league. Tarasenko is not on his level, but he has a closer consistency to what Ovechkin does than we perceive.
When compared to the players we perceive as the premier scorers in the league, Tarasenko is actually more consistent than many of them.
Tarasenko has scored more goals over the last four seasons than names like Crosby, Malkin and Seguin. That does not automatically mean he is a better scorer, but it puts things in perspective. You can check out the full table here.
While each player still has games to add to their totals, Tarasenko has 147 goals over the last four years. Crosby and Seguin currently have 135 and Malkin has 130.
Can Tarasenko do more? Definitely. Should we expect more? Sure, we are free to expect more and it is within a fan’s right to want more.
Tarasenko should be a consistent 40 goal scorer if healthy. His problem seems to be between the ears, because as much as he did not like it, Ken Hitchcock was able to push the buttons to get him there.
We also need to realize that he contributes a lot to this team. There is nothing wrong with wanting more than 30 per season, but when players we perceive as better don’t hit that mark as consistently, then we also have to change the numbers we value as well.