Any perusal of St. Louis Blues social media immediately after the 2021 season ended for the team revealed a vocal contingent of fans clamoring for the team to trade Vladimir Tarasenko or expose him in the expansion draft. When it is only coming from fans, it is easy to shrug off as foolish sentiment.
However, when trusted sources in the media start talking about the idea, it gains a different kind of traction. Now, those of us that want the team’s best pure goal scorer to stay have reason to worry.
Not long ago, Jeremy Rutherford of the Athletic, reported that the Blues will gauge Tarasenko’s trade value this offseason. No offense, but that’s dumb.
It’s not so much the idea of shopping him that’s foolish. It’s the supposed reason the Blues might look to move him that is idiotic.
Some might say that Tarasenko will be OK when he gets more games under his belt following his third shoulder surgery, and they may be right. But from a team-dynamic perspective — the desire to suit up a blue-collar, hardworking lineup — the Blues may feel the need to go in a different direction, and Tarasenko may want that, too. – Jeremy Rutherford, The Athletic
Seriously? St. Louis is looking to trade a 30-goal scorer because he’s not currently playing “Blues hockey”?
Let’s be real here, that doesn’t have a good track record in St. Louis. Think of how looking only for players that fit the “Cardinals way” has held the city’s storied baseball franchise back in recent years.
Additionally, what more are we asking from Tarasenko? The stats are ridiculous for his 2021 playoffs because he was one of the few forwards in the top six, outside of Brayden Schenn, that actually went in on some board battles. Clearly he was not gifted a “hit” by the stat crew, but Tarasenko was not shying away from any physicality.
Ever since 2017-18, Tarasenko turned into slightly over a hit per game player as long as he was healthy. That is exactly the kind of player the Blues should want and he’s proven he is doing what is asked.
Tarasenko rarely had more hits in a season than the low-30’s during most of Ken Hitchcock’s reign and he was known for making Brett Hull play a 200-foot game. He picks up his physicality, helps the Blues win a Stanley Cup and suddenly he’s not “blue-collar” enough?
That’s hot garbage. I’m not calling out Rutherford for answering a question or relaying the feeling he gets from the organization – Rutherford is one of the few St. Louis sports writers that sticks to facts and not hyperbole –
but it’s a ridiculous notion.
The fans saying Tarasenko is physically done have absolutely no proof. They’re the kind of people that would rather be proven right than him stay and return to a normal goal pace. They’d rather say they knew he was washed up than any other alternative.
It’s dumb because there’s no pleasing that kind of fan and they’re always vocal and always know what’s best, until they don’t. Those same kind of people wanted Jay Bouwmeester run out of town. The same kind of reactionary was ready to run Alex Pietrangelo out of St. Louis in December of 2018, prior to the great turnaround.
Justin Faulk was a worthless piece of trash and not worth the paper the trade was printed on until he got a fair look with the Blues. It’s amazing how vocal so many are about a player being done and then there are crickets if that player comes back to form or finds another way to be productive.
If we traded Bouwmeester when he did not look great, the Blues would have lost their best pure defender prior to an eventual Cup win. He looked washed up, but it turned out he just had yet to fully recover. How do we know that is not true of Tarasenko?
In his postseason interview, he said nobody knows what’s going on with his body except him and the trainers and he had three separate injuries, not the same one over and over. Why assume he cannot recover?
Oh, but he doesn’t work hard enough. Well, plenty of leaders and “scorers” for the Blues did not work hard enough during the 2021 playoffs and Tarasenko still managed to outscore all of them.
This is not just a St. Louis thing either. Washington Capitals fans (again, just a vocal portion) were ready to trade Alex Ovechkin for a new blade of grass on the White House lawn because he wasn’t living up to their expectations of what should be achieved in the playoffs.
Imagine that. Trade away a slightly aging forward who had not shown any signs of not scoring 30 or more goals when healthy.
While the mathematics are sound in regards to freeing up cap space if you cleared out Tarasenko’s $7.5 million, the fact remains that money will not easily replace what he has and might provide. Nobody can assure you he will score up to his potential in 2021-22, but there are no assurances in life.
Add into that, regardless of talk radio garble, the Blues’ biggest problem for 2020-21 was scoring. You can add all the grit, size and blue-collar players you want on the blue line or forwards, but if you can’t get three or more goals with regularity, you’re not going to win. You simply cannot win games 1-0 or 2-1 all the time.
There are not 30-goal scorers available in the free agent class of 2021 either. Picking up a trade for a scorer is possible, but will cost you more than Tarasenko and a draft pick. On top of that, there is also no guarantee of that scorer being a sure thing because only Tarasenko and Ovechkin have been consistent 30-plus goal scorers, when healthy, over the last five, full seasons.
An additional fact is that $7.5 million is actually a good deal for a player that can score. Taylor Hall was getting paid $8 million this past season and he’s had one 30-plus goal season in his career. So many drool over Hall, but he has 10 more career goals than Tarasenko and has played 149 more career games than Tarasenko. Only 10 more goals in almost two seasons worth of games?
Some fans might say use the money on Mike Hoffman. That’s laughable.
Nobody can argue that Hoffman started fitting in with the Blues late in 2021 and even gained a slight edge to his game. However, if you’ve fooled yourself into thinking he’d be any more “blue collar” than Tarasenko, then I can introduce you to a wealthy foreigner who will give you several hundred thousand dollars for a small fee up front.
Pick your sides and stick with it. Don’t say the Blues need a blue-collar type of player and suggest they look for a scorer who will not play that way. No player embodies all those things and gets you goals at the level St. Louis needs.
The Blues need to add scoring to what they already have. If you trade Tarasenko, you’ve got to replace his production AND get more on top of that. That’s basically trying to add 2-4 players with the $7.5 that might be available.
For those that forgot, Tarasenko was on the 2019 Stanley Cup team. That team was the epitome of Blues hockey and he was a contributor, both offensively and physically (50 hits in 26 games). Unless you’re sticking to the injury gun, which is the only argument that can make sense, it makes no sense to think he’s suddenly such a detriment to the way the Blues want to play.
While no fan is 100% happy with every general manager’s decision, most of us have learned to trust Doug Armstrong’s decisions. So, if he manages to work a deal involving Tarasenko, we should trust there is a grand plan behind it, even if we don’t agree.
Until that happens, there’s no convincing me that trading a scorer away from a team in desperate need of scoring is a good idea.