The St. Louis Blues were put in a rather odd predicament when Vladimir Tarasenko got hurt. However, they need to be patient and trust in their roster.
The St. Louis Blues were trying to find their grove early in the 2019-20 season. After a long playoff run, a Stanley Cup championship and an incredibly short offseason, many of the players were off to somewhat slow starts. It seemed as though that was changing until disaster struck October 24 against the Los Angeles Kings.
Prior to that game, Vladimir Tarasenko appeared to be starting one of his trademark hot streaks. He had scored goals in three of his last four games and had 10 points in 10 games. When he was not scoring, he was being an assist machine, which boded well for a potential record setting season.
Instead, Tarasenko mysteriously re-injured his shoulder against the Kings. Now, he will be out at least five months.
Of course, the knee-jerk reaction is to look for trade options. However, the smart thing is to trust the players they currently have and see what the young players can do.
First and foremost, a trade would be exceedingly difficult without altering the team chemistry in the locker room. There have already been whispers among fans as to whether the Justin Faulk acquisition has altered the makeup of the team in an unforeseen way. You’re not going to get anything even remotely close to a replacement, from a production standpoint, without giving up a fairly valuable piece.
Perhaps the Blues could limit that to a prospect and some draft picks. Again, the prospect would likely be too highly thought of, i.e. Jordan Kyrou or Klim Kostin, and the Blues have traded away enough draft picks lately.
St. Louis has a nice, long window of opportunity to win, but they will need to restock at some point and you cannot do that through free agency alone. You do need to have draft picks, especially in the first round. Continually trading them is not a recipe for success.
Schenn is currently on pace to score 60 goals. That total is quite unlikely, but even half that would be a career high for him. If he holds anything close to his current pace, he would set a career high in points too. Given the fact his 2018-19 was a step down from his 2017-18 production, if he even returned to his 2017-18 form, that would be enough from him to offset part of Tarasenko’s loss.
Then there is Perron. He is currently on pace for 41 goals and 82 points, both of which would far surpass anything in his career to date.
In reality, he will not hit those numbers. However, like Schenn, he does not have to.
Even 30 goals would be a new career high and if he sticks with what is working currently, he can attain that number. Outside of Vegas, Perron’s assist numbers have never been that high, but 30 goals paired with anything from 25 to 40 assists would keep the offense humming quite well.
Then you throw in names like Robert Thomas. We have seen superstar qualities from Thomas. The guy’s hands are about as good as anyone on the Blues and St. Louis currently has quite a few good puck handlers.
The Blues don’t need superstar numbers from him yet. If he doubled his output from 2018-19 and scored 18-20 goals, that would be enough. Doubling up the assist numbers (24) would be even better, but just getting somewhere in the 30-plus range would do as well.
Kyrou and Kostin will get their chances too, since this is going to be a lengthy absence. I do not share my Bleedin’ Blue co-writers’ assertion that Kostin has to come up immediately, but he is going to get his look eventually. I was quite certain Kostin would stay in the AHL the entire season, but this has completely altered those plans and gives the team the excuse to bring him up if they so choose.
Again, due to the talent the Blues have, you do not need those guys to attempt to be Tarasenko. All they need to do is continue their progression. If they both came up at various times in the year and combined for 10-15 goals, fans might be underwhelmed, but that is all the team would need.
One person is not going to replace the production that Tarasenko gives you. Though we love him, fans still like to rag on the guy since we know he can do more, but few have done what Tarasenko has. In the last five seasons, only Tarasenko and Alex Ovechkin have scored 30-plus goals in each of those years.
Think of that. Of all the perceived prolific scorers and talents across the NHL, the Blues’ star and Ovechkin are the only ones to have that kind of consistency.
That means any trade is not even close to a guarantee. Unless you pulled off some insanity and acquired Ovechkin, you are not guaranteed to replace Tarasenko’s production because there is no guarantee whoever you acquire will score 30-plus goals. Is it really worth picking up someone that might score 20 goals or 25 goals with the price it will likely cost you in picks or prospects? Unlikely.
There is also the cap situation to consider. The Blues are currently right up against the cap if you figure in Tarasenko’s numbers. So, to fit in this potential new player, you are trading away a cost-controlled piece if you intend to keep the new acquisition, or you are trading for a one-year rental.
Unless you win the Stanley Cup again, I do not see a rental as anything but the wrong move for the Blues. You lose out on future years with a player either highly thought of in the scouting department or someone that the team already knows on the NHL roster.
If trade discussions come forth for Doug Armstrong and they make sense for this team both now and in the future, of course you take part in those talks. Anything that is simply a stop-gap move, based solely on the fact that Tarasenko is now out, is something to avoid entirely.
This team is not better without Tarasenko. We might expect more of him, but he is still a star in this league.
That said, if the right guys step up, there is enough talent and cohesion on this roster that they can survive. Nobody needs Herculean efforts either.
All the Blues need is for guys like Schenn and Perron and Ryan O’Reilly to play to their full abilities, which they have shown they can do and have been doing to start 2019-20. That would be enough to allow the younger players and prospects you plug in to not face immediate pressure to perform and simply go out and play.
Undoubtedly, the top guys on the Blues will hit a cold spell. It just happens. Even then, there is no guarantee that the piece you try to trade for would be the sole player to lift the team out of that cold spell.
The Blues can get through this difficult issue and I believe they will. They won the Stanley Cup by being a team and that is what they need to be now. Keep the team as is and I believe the right people will step up to the plate.