St. Louis Blues Vladimir Tarasenko Narrative Makes No Sense

Vladimir Tarasenko #91 (Photo by EyesWideOpen/Getty Images)
Vladimir Tarasenko #91 (Photo by EyesWideOpen/Getty Images) /
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The captaincy

Let it not be said that this entire issue is Tarasenko being in the right. If the captain’s “C” is still an issue then he’s being a baby and needs to get over it.

Not every captain has the same style and there is no one style that is so much better than the other. You have boisterous, exuberant captains that are a sheer force of will, you have some that lead purely by example and you have some that seem quiet, but have a presence about them that compels others to them.

The problem Tarasenko had, publicly, is nobody outside of the locker room knows how he is in the locker room. To most fans, there’s no reason to believe he would be a good leader.

He doesn’t like public speaking or talking to the media, both of which are big aspects of being captain. He gets agitated at certain types of questions, the types he would be asked even more when he had to do media sessions 82-plus times a year.

Tarasenko seems well liked by most Blues players, but he did not seem to have that presence. Giving him the “C” would have been more a reward for service as opposed to pushing the team in the right direction.

Most people that have worked long enough have been passed over by someone not with the company as long as yourself. It sucks and it hurts. That doesn’t mean you were the best person for the job and it doesn’t mean you don’t continue doing your job as best you can.

Whining about it won’t help and neither will causing division within the team, as happened when Alex Pietrangelo was named captain and Alex Steen and his friends did not like it.

I get being disappointed, but not being named captain just because you were here longer is a childish thing to throw a tantrum over.

Power play problem

One notion going around is that Tarasenko has not been happy with his usage. I can’t say that’s false, but it makes little sense.

When he’s been healthy, he’s always been in the top six and you could argue his line was usually considered the top line. So, where is this misusage coming from?

The only likely place is on the power play. Even then, Tarasenko usually got top power play unit minutes.

So, the only frustration would be where he is asked to be on the ice. If this is the case, Tarasenko needs to get over himself.

Blues fans have been frustrated for YEARS about Tarasenko being on the point, aka the blue line, during power plays. No other team in the NHL that pops to mind puts their most potent scoring threat so far away from the goal.

The only thing close was watching Nathan MacKinnon and Steven Stamkos play near the point on their respective power plays. However, those teams have so many options and both players are playmakers as opposed to pure scorers.

As fans, we figured this had to be some nonsensical coaching maneuver. Later, we found out Tarasenko apparently prefers to be at the point. One can suppose he sees himself as the quarterback of the thing.

It doesn’t matter and it doesn’t make sense. His passing is good, but not quick enough to avoid the pressure. His shot is one of the quickest in the NHL, but it’s not the hardest.

You need hard shots from that distance. Tarasenko wrist shots have no chance of scoring from 50 feet, or more, unless there is heavy traffic. More often than not, there was not heavy traffic.

If not being on the point upset him that much, it needed to be explained better. Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball talents ever, had no intention of playing the triangle offense. Phil Jackson found a way to explain the benefit to Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won six championships afterwards.

Regardless of who put him at the point, it was never the right spot for him. If he wanted to be there, the team needed to do a better job of explaining why he needed to be elsewhere. If the team wanted him there, then several different coaches need their heads examined since he’s been playing at the blue line for three different ones now.

Who replaces the scoring

If you ask someone this question and their response is “anyone”, don’t even engage in conversation. They need to be checked into a mental hospital.

Even if you argue Tarasenko is physically diminished, he’s still capable of 15 goals, at the very least. No, 15 goals is not worth $7.5 million, but Jaden Schwartz‘ production is not worth what he earned and yet we’re talking about if he gets a raise. It’s pro sports.

Regardless, the fact remains that the Blues need scoring. You cannot give away a player who will provide at least 15 goals and has the potential to score 30 or more and expect to easily replace that. Additionally, the Blues are at a point where they need to add scoring, not just replace it.

In a perfect world, you need Tarasenko’s 30 goals and also someone from the outside to score so you’ve improved your totals, not just evened out whatever you already had.

Some will say Jordan Kyrou will step up and maybe he will. As talented as he is, he doesn’t strike any scouts as a 30 goal scorer, so there’s still production that needs to be replaced. Also, since St. Louis is such a baseball town, they should know that continually needing career seasons from your team in order to be competitive is not a sustainable plan of action.

The harsh truth is there is not a lot of scoring available unless Doug Armstrong pulls a rabbit out of a hat. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but Gabriel Landeskog is not coming to St. Louis.

Matt Tkachuk is not coming to St. Louis, at least not this offseason. Tkachuk has debunked the trade request rumors on his end and Calgary said they have no intention of dealing him. Landeskog likely stays in Colorado and if he leaves, it’s going to be for more money than the Blues need or can be spending.

Bring back Mike Hoffman? Offensively, I’m OK with that, but don’t hide behind this pretention of “Blues hockey” then. Hoffman is more defensively lax and motivatingly challenged than Tarasenko ever was.

Free agents or trade

Most people bring up the cap space when being in favor of a Tarasenko trade. This actually does make sense from the fan perspective, but not as much for the team, mostly based on us not knowing their intentions.

Trading a star is a risk, no matter the circumstances. It rarely works out well for the team that is giving up the proven commodity.

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If you do trade Tarasenko, what is the goal in return? Do you receive just draft picks and prospects in order to keep the entire $7.5 million available?

That would depend on a multitude of factors. If that is the goal, you have to trade him sooner than later so you can attempt deals with higher priced targets.

Yet, the Blues have not had great success in free agency. Of the players currently under contract, only Torey Krug and Kyle Clifford were brought in as free agents – technically David Perron too, but that’s a different kettle of fish. Most of the Blues roster moves have been in the draft or trades.

Going free agency is dangerous. You’re always hoping for the best, but you never know what an outsider will do when their original team did not want them or could not afford them.

Conversely, if you make a trade for an NHL player, you’re obviously hoping the deal will return you at least some of the scoring potential lost. If you make a trade for a prospect, it’s a toss of the coin. You have no clue when they’ll be ready or what kind of pro they will turn into.

No matter which direction you take, there are no guarantees.

Did The Blues provide enough support

When I ask a question about the team providing enough support, don’t take it as questioning the entire roster. When you assemble a championship team, clearly you put together some talent.

However, for years, Blues fans have agreed that Tarasenko needed a number one center to help him out and set him up more. The problem was they never truly did that.

The team brought in Paul Stastny, one of the better playmakers at the time. He rarely played with Tarasenko.

St. Louis brought in Braden Schenn, which has been a fantastic acquisition. Schenn and Tarasenko clashed at first, making the pairing seemingly undesirable, but the team kept going back to it.

The Blues picked up Ryan O’Reilly, one of the best all around centers in the game. Again, how many games has he consistently played with Tarasenko?

O’Reilly rarely played with him. Schenn has moved back and forth between different lines and even different positions as he was used on the wing. Unless on the power play, Tarasenko and Stastny almost never played together.

Many hoped Robert Thomas could be a top center for the team. He never really got a look with the team’s best wingers, so we may never know if he could have formed something special with Tarasenko.

The Blues have brought in some good talent, but never paired it with Tarasenko for long. Maybe that’s a cohesion problem with Tarasenko or maybe it’s a problem with the staff. We may never know.

What are the Blues thinking?

Last, but not least, we do need to question how it even got to this point. Personally, I have never been one that thinks stars need to be catered to, but I do believe a player of Tarasenko’s caliber deserves respect.

We’ll never truly know whether he’s been given that respect or not. This will always be a he said, she said situation and fans will pick their sides.

I’ve seen several social media posts talking about how disrespectful it is for Tarasenko to play this out in the media. That’s nonsensical since Rutherford’s source was supposedly from the team and we’ve not seen a single quote from Tarasenko on the matter.

It’s hard to know specifically if anyone is or can be blamed. It seems to be a lot of hurt feelings based on things that just happen.

Tarasenko should not have been made captain. However, perhaps he did deserve to be approached by the team as to why he would not be captain before it was announced.

Maybe the team did mishandle the injury situations. We’ll never really know, so it’s hard to say Armstrong should have done this or Tarasenko should have done that.

What feels clear, is that this did not come out of nowhere. While the Blues did not need to kowtow to Tarasenko at any point, the discord has to have been brewing long enough that the team could have handled it before it reached this point.

Tarasenko does not seem to be a prima donna, so how do you go from Stanley Cup champion to demanding a trade from the only NHL franchise you’ve ever known in such a short period?

Maybe this has been brewing for a long time and the team never gave the respect to the man, regardless of public appearance. Tarasenko made repeated pitches to the front office to sign Artemi Panarin before Chicago signed him. I understand not wanting to just give someone’s friend a job, but how foolish did the Blues look when that guy hit the ice in stride in the NHL? That could have planted the seeds we are seeing grow now.

Even if that was not it, what has Armstrong or Craig Berube been doing the entire time If Tarasenko was pouting in the corner? Call him a baby if you want, but there had to be avenues to smooth things over prior to all this.

This is not an overnight happening. If you think back on Tarasenko’s final press conference after the 2021 season, he seemed to be thanking those that had supported him as though he knew something big was about to go down.

Maybe it’ll work out one way or another. Perhaps Tarasenko will stay and it’ll all be good. Maybe he’ll get traded, never return to form and the Blues will have dodged a bullet.

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I fear it will not work out. I fear this trade will happen and Tarasenko will regain his form and make us all look foolish. It’s happened plenty of times before and we seem to be returning to a normal Blues way of things and that would fit right in.