The St. Louis Blues have done their job in the offseason of 2018 and gotten some serious depth for their lineup. Now, it is up to their superstar to do his job and get things done in 2018-19.
The St. Louis Blues sole purpose is not to make Vladimir Tarasenko happy and that’s a good thing. If that was the case, they would have either signed Artemi Panarin from the start or traded the farm for him this summer. You cannot simply cater to your stars or you let them have too much power, which Tarasenko really does not even want.
That said, if you have a happy player, they are more likely to play better. We have to hope that Tarasenko is going to be happy with the team’s additions in 2018-19.
You can never assume chemistry between any players. Sometimes things just do not sit right. However, the excuses are all but gone for the Blues superstar and now he has to get it done.
All that said, it should not be assumed that Tarasenko has every been truly unhappy or acted like a diva. I believe he goes out and tries his best each night. It is simply that some nights there is less drive due to certain situations. Now, that simply cannot exist. We need to start seeing the very best Tarasenko has to offer for 70-82 games (assuming health).
The biggest issue that Tarasenko has had during his career was the lack of a center to partner with him. The Blues have always had good players to pair with him (Jori Lehtera not withstanding), but there was not that true playmaker that was going to compliment his skills correctly.
There were false starts along the way. The Blues tried Lehtera and that did not work. Paul Stastny was going to be the answer, but that pairing was not given the time it needed at the start and then just did not click when it was tried.
St. Louis acquired Brayden Schenn in 2017. That has been the closest thing to a solid combination they’ve really had, but there were chemistry issues between the two. The on-ice performance was fine, but Schenn was publicly frustrated with Tarasenko’s style of play, which Schenn said he never knew where Tarasenko would be on the ice.
Those kinds of comments, coupled with a down year for Tarasenko – 33 goals was his lowest since 2013-14 – make it less likely the Blues put Schenn and Tarasenko together again if not necessary. That is fine though. The Blues added some serious talent and now Tarasenko has to perform.
Most fans are hoping he will get paired with Ryan O’Reilly and those two can start scoring in bunches. The reason I want that pairing is because I feel O’Reilly compliments Tarasenko.
O’Reilly is not light years ahead of Stastny in talent, but he brings more of a threat of scoring since he is more willing to shoot. In his time in St. Louis, Stastny became predictable. He was always looking to pass, so teams knew to focus on the passing lanes instead of respecting the shot.
That should be different with O’Reilly. A playmaker that is willing to score will draw more attention away from Tarasenko, which should give him more opportunity to score. The constant defender in his pocket has been part of Tarasenko’s lack of scoring at times.
The Blues also have serious depth on the wings now, which should give Tarasenko a quality partner on the other side of the ice. You have youth and speed to compliment his skills, such as Robby Fabbri, Robert Thomas, David Perron (not youth but still) or more.
Or, you can go with size and grit to clear a path for the scorer. Pat Maroon might not be a prototypical first line player, but he makes the lanes and creates disturbances for the more skilled guys.
The bottom line is that Tarasenko has to get it done this year. Nobody truly expects him to go out and score 50 goals. He might not be that player and that’s alright.
However, if he feels he can score 50, then he has no more excuses. There are too many options for there to continually be any chemistry issues. There are too many playmakers, even if none are truly elite, for him to not have the chances set up.
He has to develop that bulldog mentality and become the performance leader this team needs. It is fantastic to want to win regardless of personal stats, but the Blues win more when he scores, pure and simple.
The front office did it’s job. Now, he has to go out there and get it done. That is easier said than done, but if Tarasenko is elite he will.
Projections are a dangerous thing in sports. If Tarasenko does not hit 40-plus goals in 2018-19, though, then we all have rights to be disappointed. I believe he will.