Every St. Louis Blues season goes by with it’s challenges and players that underperform. In the social media age, we now know every asinine thought every single fan can conjure up at any moment.
Some make sense. Most are no more worth your time than the drivel that pours out of any national politician. It might sound floury and thought out, but it isn’t.
That’s basically the case with all this noise surrounding Vladimir Tarasenko. Go anywhere on social media regarding the Blues and you’ll see talk about how he’s finished and the injuries got him and the Blues have to get rid of him.
The amusing thing is, while Twitter is usually the worst for putting ridiculous nonsense out there, Facebook is actually worse – much worse – in regards to Tarsenko. The day following the Blues ouster from the 2021 playoffs, it was just post after post after post about how little they regarded the Blues scorer and how they want nothing in return, other than him to no longer be on the team.
It should be noted these are generalized. Bleedin’ Blue’s Twitter and Facebook are much more civilized.
So, this is not to say anyone who thinks Tarasenko should be gone is not playing with a full deck. As mentioned, some fans can make sense, but even then they fail to realize the realities.
Tarasenko is still capable
The reality of Tarasenko is that he’s a 30-goal scorer until he is not. People will read this and point out that he has not had 30 goals in two seasons.
Tarsenko has played a combined total of 34 regular season games during that time. We have not seen a full 82 games worth of sample size to fairly judge what kind of scorer he can be going forward.
Fans want to say he’s finished and the shoulder will never be the same. How do you know/assume that, other than it’s your preconceived bias and thus you’ll always look for ways to prove it?
Tarasenko has always been notoriously streaky, so saying four goals in 24 games in 2021 isn’t good enough is a bit much. Some rolled their eyes at the fantastic goals he scored against Colorado saying “Oh, now he can score when we’re already eliminated.”
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This isn’t basketball. Sometimes, your best players play poorly or get shut down by the opponent.
Instead of laying all the blame on Tarasenko, why not look deeper into the fact that if you remove Tarasenko’s goals, the Blues other highest paid players had one goal combined.
Another reason you keep him – perhaps the most important reason – is coupled with his own capabilities. Until we see a full season where he does not score 30, you can assume he still might. You also cannot assume anyone who has not scored 30 or more will suddenly do it. Another reality is there are very few consistent 30-plus goal scorers in the league and even fewer will be available in free agency.
Mike Hoffman has scored 30 goals, or more, once in his career. Even so, there is no way on this green Earth that Hoffman re-signs for anything close to $4 million. If he does not press for something close to Tarasenko money, and if a team doesn’t give it to him this time around, I’d be shocked.
Alex Ovechkin is the most consistent goal scorer of the last 20 years. He’s also 36 and it would likely take $8-10 million to pry him out of the Washington D.C. area.
For all the hype around Taylor Hall, he also only has one 30-goal season to his name. Additionally, Hall has now played for five different teams. If Boston does not re-sign him, he’ll be on his sixth team. Eventually, regardless of talent, that has to say something about the player.
Some recent talk, mostly on sports radio, put forth the idea that Gabriel Landeskog might be available because the Colorado Avalanche will only be able to afford so many guys in the next few years. If the Blues could have him and Tarasenko, I’d be be over the moon.
If the choice is between the two of them, I would listen to an argument for Landeskog, but the fact remains that he also only has one 30-goal season. Landeskog has done very good numbers in the last two shortened seasons, but he’s also playing with Nathan MacKinnon almost exclusively. Tarasenko has had a rotating door of centers, regardless of their talent levels. Landeskog is only a year younger too, so you’re not gaining much in terms of length of career remaining.
Brandon Saad got paid $6 million last season. He’s only had one 30-goal season in his career.
That’s what Ryan Nugent-Hopkins got paid. He has no 30-goal seasons.
Nick Foligno is available, but he’s 33. He’s also only had one 30-goal season, just got paid over $5 million and has been a roller coaster of production anyway.
Tomas Tatar will be a free agent. He’s a relatively consistent scorer, but he’s actually older than Tarasenko and has never scored 30 goals or more.
Then we come to Jaden Schwartz. I’m not advocating for letting him walk, but if we’re talking about underperforming, I don’t have a clue why he gets a pass. The guy has the talent to put up 30 goals and never has. Fans let him slide because of the energy he brings, but you can get that type of energy for less money.
Why then do we say Tarasenko is overpaid? Frankly, given the number of 30-plus goal seasons he has under his belt, he’s underpaid.
Another argument is that Tarasenko doesn’t hustle or play hard. That’s confirmation bias.
Those early games in the Colorado series, Tarasenko was one of the few players actually taking the body. We can argue whether that put him out of position, but he was not taking himself out of the play more than any of the other players making mistakes.
Also, why get rid of Tarasenko to keep Hoffman? I have seen plenty suggest this, but you’d be swapping the same kind of player and also getting one that looked like he had no interest in playing Craig Berube‘s style until the last week of the season.
Last, but not lease (and we’ve gone through this with several players over the last few years) is the gross undervaluation of Tarasenko’s worth.
IF, and that’s a big if, Tarasenko was as worthless as some suggest, why would any other team take him? There’s lots of foolish general managers in the NHL, but none are dumb. You don’t acquire a forward for $7.5 million if they believe he’s truly washed up.
The same is true for the expansion draft. So many comments say they hope Tarasenko is exposed to Seattle. Again, if he’s not capable of producing goals, why would they take him? Conversely, if they did take him, shouldn’t we be worried that they believe Tarasenko will rebound and are willing to give him that opportunity?
Some fans suggest a trade. Even I have reached a point where that should not be ruled out, however, the same thought applies. Can you truly replace the prouction?
St. Louis desperately needs scoring. Don’t give me this nonsense about how the Blues looked better without him, because they’ve relied on goaltending and will and eventually that runs out, which we saw at different points in 2021.
Radio hosts can say the Blues need to be tougher or bigger on defense, but you cannot rely on 1-0 or 2-1 scores. They need goals.
Getting rid of a guy who can score you 30 goals, if he gets his body right, just doesn’t make sense. He overcame a shoulder injury and then had a lower-body injury later in the season.
If nothing else, his injuries might have been because he pushed too hard. He cares too much and wants to help this team.
He’s not Brett Hull and never will be, but who is? Ovechkin is the only one that comes close.
He doesn’t fly around like Brayden Schenn or show an iron will the way fans demand. If anyone saw his postgame press conference after the sweep against Colorado and still thinks he doesn’t care and isn’t putting everything in, nothing anyone says will make you think otherwise.
Maybe his body will continue to fail. That does not mean those that call for his job now are right.
The truth is there is not anyone out there the Blues are likely to acquire that can fill Tarasenko’s shoes exactly. That’s because there aren’t 30-goal scorers out there. They simply don’t exist in the consistency he brought them prior to his injury.
So, the smartest course of action is to get him a nice offseason without injury to worry about. Let him rest and then get back to it and hit the ground running in 2021-22.
It’s easier to keep him, hope he scores the way he can and supplement that with an outside player than it is to find another 30-goal scorer.