Now that St. Louis Blues social media has had a good 12-plus hours to let the flames of an enormous fire die down, let’s try to talk this out like rational adults. Simply put, the Blues should not accept or give in to Vladimir Tarasenko‘s request.
As with anything, this is a volatile situation, both among fans and between the team and player. It has many facets, each one entwining with the next.
First off, before we get to the actual heart of the matter between team and player, I suppose I’ll continue down my inevitable path of apparently being the anti-fan fan. It’s not something I strive for, but the thoughts of the average Blues fan on social media boggles my mind at times.
Just a week, or so, ago, it was the team supposedly seeking out a trade of the scoring winger. That was all fine and dandy and many fans were more than happy to see Tarasenko get a fresh start and possibly be packaged to bring back St. Louisan Matthew Tkachuk.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but the Tkachuk rumors were debunked by both the Flames and Tkachuk himself. That’s not to say a deal could not be made at some point, but it’s not happening any time soon.
Regardless, there was a sense that a trade would be best for all parties. While I disagreed then, at least it was somewhat cordial.
Now that Jeremy Rutherford, of the Athletic, says his source claims Tarasenko wants out, all hell has broken loose. Social media is littered with all manner of different ways to say “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
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It’s no longer a question of what the Blues might try to get in return, but seething hatred for a sudden betrayal. The talk has turned beyond just being diminished from injury to questioning his heart, his values and his talent from the beginning.
Assuming Rutherford’s source is correct, why is there this big a difference between the team seeking a trade and the player requesting one?
No offense, but with all the hot garbage thrown his way from Blues fans in recent times, he has every right to want out. The guy has dedicated his professional career to this franchise and given the Blues a consistent scorer the likes of which they have not had in decades, but it’s never been good enough.
Fans expected, nay, demanded, Tarasenko to be the next Brett Hull. He was never going to be that because he had a different mindset, a different skillset and a different background. That doesn’t mean he did not provide what was necessary of a star player.
Tarasenko scored 30-plus goals in five straight seasons. This story about how he lost his consistency the last two years is nonsense. We don’t have enough games played where he was healthy to know how consistent he would be. If you think he should have scored regardless, it’s highly likely you have never dealt with a shoulder injury.
More to the point, however, even if Tarasenko has every right to want out based on social media reaction, that does not mean the Blues need to accept his request. In fact, unless something fantastic comes their way, I argue they should not accept it.
As fans, we have a right to be upset when we hear a player no longer wants to play for the sweater we love. However, being upset doesn’t last forever in every situation and things can still be smoothed over.
The given reasons for Tarasenko’s temper are a distrust gained from how the shoulder injuries were handled by the team and also, apparently, still being upset over the team captaincy issue. We’ll address the latter first.
Get over it. Tarasenko was not given the captaincy and he should not have been given the C and this is coming from one of his biggest fans and someone that believes he needs to stay.
Talent does not equal a captain. Longevity with a team does not equal a captain.
While none of us know how he is in the locker room, Tarasenko just does not show the leadership qualities you need in a captain. O’Reilly was the right man for the job.
This is not the first time this has happened to the Blues. Just a handful of years ago, when Pietrangelo was named captain, that fractured the locker room. You had Team Steen vs. Team Petro and it was not until Craig Berube put a stop to that that the Blues became successful again.
Similar to Tarasenko, Alex Steen felt he had put in the time with the team and deserved to be the leader. The franchise felt differently.
Who knows when Steen, or those on his side, actually got over this period of butt-hurt, but they did. We should not assume Tarasenko could not get over it. In fact, Berube might be just the man to lay it out on the table for him.
There are also rumors of him being unhappy with his usage in certain situations. Again, get over it.
Tarasenko has never not been a top-six forward for this team whenever healthy. The only thing this might be regarding is power play usage and there is not enough evidence to support any anger.
If it’s about power play time, there are lots of guys that have every right to complain. Mike Hoffman was kept off the top unit for 75% of the year for no apparent reason. Jordan Kyrou scored all of his 14 goals in 2021 at even strength because he barely had a cup of coffee on the power play.
The only other gripe Tarasenko could have is being moved to the half-wall. You’re a winger and that’s where you should be.
How in the world Tarasenko convinced himself, or the coaching staff, he needs to be at the point is beyond me. He has one of the quickest shots in the league, but he doesn’t have power from distance. He has not proven he will get a shot through traffic.
So, why would you put a player like that on the blue line? You don’t and Berube finally figured that out and put Tarasenko where he belongs, which is on the off-wing faceoff circle. If you don’t like it, nobody cares. Michael Jordan did not like the triangle offense either, until he figured out how beneficial it was.
You don’t get rid of a player because he’s upset. If every team traded every player once they got mad, it would be a revolving door.
Sometimes you need to be more firm with these guys. Just because you have talent and make millions of dollars does not make you that much more special.
Society would fall apart if every person left their job when they got upset about something at work. Just because pro athletes have more leveraged doesn’t automatically mean the team should bow to their wishes.
As far as the medical thing goes, nobody should be getting into that (even though we are). We don’t have enough information.
Did Tarasenko want more rehab instead of a surgery? Does he think the medical staff did a poor job on the surgery itself? Is he blaming the team for rushing him back or is he blaming them for holding him out too long, making him unsure of his own body?
We don’t have a clue. From a business standpoint, there is no justifying the thought that Doug Armstrong or any member of the Blues would not have Tarasenko’s best interest at heart because they have a large sum of money invested in him. No team official thinks it’s a good idea to spend $7.5 million on a player who is sitting out.
In the end, I think there is too much bluster here. Shoulders are a truly awful joint. You can never really tell how it’s going to react to healing and no two people react the same either.
I think Tarasenko is just frustrated and letting it out in the wrong way. That does not mean the Blues need to sever the relationship just because he asked.
If there is a trade that benefits the Blues, then you make it because you are getting value and not dealing with a frustrated player. You don’t make the trade simply to remove the player when the relationship can be repaired, even if only in the professional arena and not a personal one.
Social media will roast this opinion and so be it, but Tarasenko still has too much value as a player. If he is healthy, trading him would go down as one of the biggest mistakes the franchise made.
Similar to when the team dealt Brett Hull, it would not age well. Like the Hull deal, it would be accepted in the short term, but not age well.
I reiterate, the Blues are not in a position where they can be losing offense. Even if you take the mindset that Tarasenko is diminished, he could provide you 15 goals. If you trade him, you have to replace those 15 goals, plus get another player capable of providing an additional 15-20 goals to come out ahead.
There just are not that many scorers available. I trust Armstrong to do what is best for the franchise, but until shown a different path that is not just online fan bluster, the best path is to smooth out the problems and not accept this trade request.