The best solution for Vladimir Tarasenko and the St. Louis Blues is quite simple


Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports

Dan Buffa, Special to the Jewish Light

Just score goals.

If the St. Louis Blues and Vladimir Tarasenko — a suddenly star-crossed sports couple in the NHL on the verge of breakup after years of content happiness– want to maximize value and find a happy ending, the endgame revolves around goals being put into the net. It’s almost too simple.

Due to a series of shoulder injuries, followed by surgeries that sideline the winger for months, Tarasenko has indeed lost a little zip on his shot-and he’s not exactly a fan of going to the net to find production. So, he needs to go back to what worked before and revive that 30-goal potential. Go to the dot and let it rip. Stop thinking and just shoot.

Tarasenko needs to be in that 260-280 shots-per-season mode early and often in the upcoming 2021-22 season. Unlike next year’s baseball season, which is currently in limbo due to an expired Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NHL season will go on. The Winter Classic in the New Year will feature the Minnesota Wild and Blues facing off under national lights. Imagine Tarasenko walking into that series with double digits in goals already. That would be quite a showcase.

Let’s be honest with ourselves as this uncomfortable team dilemma unfolds. The “happy ending” could end up being a trade sometime during the season. Heck, it could still happen before the puck officially drops on the regular season for the Blues on Oct. 16 in Colorado. Trades reappear during the preseason, which the Blues open up on Sept. 25 against the Wild at the Enterprise Center. Due to injury, there could be an opening for another team to seek out the winger after a dry offseason.

General Manager Doug Armstrong did try to deal Tarasenko over the summer to no avail, with teams either scared off by the asking price or the shoulder. And no one should expect Armstrong to just trade the guy for peanuts. You don’t just send a 29-year-old player with over 200 goals and a still fresh Stanley Cup ring packing for a couple could-be talents.

What we have here is a failure to communicate, at least production wise. Every living breathing soul in the sport knows Tarasenko was and still can be dangerous. It isn’t like his stats have been awful for years; it’s the injury list stints that have swallowed up more games. In the past two seasons combined, Tarasenko has put up 24 points in 34 games, with just seven goals. In his last full season, the year St. Louis ended up taking Lord Stanley for a coveted summer tour around family, Tarasenko scored 33 goals and tallied 68 points.

However, that season started three years ago, which can seem ancient in the toughened arena of professional hockey. The most news he has made over the past year is rehab updates and trade demands, not exactly the sort of bells a player wishes to hear around his career. Scoring changes that quickly.

At this point, there’s one real question left to answer: What does Tarasenko have left?

The follow-up rumination would be can that “amount” left in the tank equal another 25-30 season? The Blues need Tarasenko to be closer to his old self than just a halfway decent player, because that yearly $7.5 million cap hit eats up a huge chunk of the team payroll. For a team that looks quite different than it did a few years ago, St. Louis needs all the dollars they can get in order to keep the Stanley Cup repeat window open. Figuring out if their former star winger is going to be a detriment or benefit should clear a good portion of that picture up.

No one prefers a player who publicly made his unrest felt in recent months playing such a big role on their team. It’s not how head coach Craig Berube would have drawn it up, but it’s the cards he’s dealt in a season that could determine how hot his seat gets. In some cosmic shoulder-ailment-afflicted way, the player and coach may need each more than they realize.

For Tarasenko, the idea should be simple. Shut up and score. Whine all day and night about the Blues team doctors supposedly hacking up the shoulder–but that got him nowhere. Here’s the good news. He’s making a TON of money to try and be great again. Just score goals. Do it the old-fashioned way-get the puck, find the dot, and release it quickly-or develop another way. Let Brett Hull tell him a lovely story about being traded to Ken Hitchcock’s Dallas Stars and having his cherry-picking score routine be turned into a work-for-it, go to the net mentality.

Find a way, Tarasenko. The Blues are stuck with you until you do. Maybe, just maybe, you get to hoist the Cup again before leaving town.