Sunday, January 3, 2021

Blues Preview: Vladimir Tarasenko Jersey Card

This will likely be the preface to all of this year's Season Preview posts: 2020 is a different beast and requires adaptability; in my case, it means the joint posts with my "main/personal" blog will not be in the "player here/analysis there" format but rather the entire scope of the analysis will take place here and the player will have some sort of direct connection to what's written. Caveats: at this point, despite the season being set to start in Mid-January, several impact players haven't found a team yet and quite a few teams are currently above the salary cap, which means there is much maneuvering left to do.

The St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2019 and had only lost a handful of support players to defend their title prior to last season - Joel Edmundson and hometown hero Patrick Maroon - but this time around, losing captain Alex Pietrangelo, retiree Jay Bouwmeester, free agent Troy Brouwer and goalie Jake Allen makes for a greater impact on paper, even though the team remains solid and among the best in a top-heavy but shallow West division. Nearly as significant is the loss of Vladimir Tarasenko to a long-term injury, although he could be back in time for the playoffs, which would be a huge boost.

What makes their odds look good:
They still have 15 players who won a Cup just 18 months ago, including Jaden Schwartz, Ryan O'Reilly, David Perron, Brayden Schenn, Samuel Blais, Colton Parayko and Jordan Binnington. They also replaced Pietrangelo with Torey Krug, who was on the Boston Bruins team the Blues faced in that Final, with a four-point game to show for it.

Question marks:
Is Justin Faulk a fit on this team, or will he get traded before the end of the season? Which is the real Binnington - the one from the 2019 or the 2020 playoffs?

There is no need to worry about missing the playoffs, but playing in the same division as the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights means that making it past the second round is going to be extremely difficult and exhausting.

Third in the West Division.

Back to Tarasenko, who underwent his third shoulder surgery in three years last September and will be out until the end of March. He had 10 points in 10 games in 2019-20, which is a better scoring rate than he's ever achieved over a full season, so at age 29, he really is in his prime, but despite having posted five straight 30-goal seasons (with a high of 40 in 2015-16), he still falls short of what was expected of him: 50-goal seasons and chanllenging Alex Ovechkin for the scoring crown; part of that can be attributed to Tarasenko also developing as a passer (he is usually at no more than a 10 goals-to-assists ratio difference at the end of any given season), whereas Ovie is definitely a shoot-only type of player, but it also has to do with the Blues' historically defensive style of play. Tarasenko will likely never win a Selke Trophy, but he has less leeway than his Team Russia teammate in his own zone. We'll see if there are any long-term consequences to his surgery in the next couple of years.

Here he is sporting the Blues' white (away) uniform on the jersey insert version of card #11 from Upper Deck's 2017-18 SPX set:
It features a game-worn dark blue jersey swatch that is probably from the Blues' blue (home) jersey. I got it in a trade for a few in-person autograph cards before realizing it could be purchased for $5-10 on Ebay. Internationally, Tarasenko has a gold medal from the 2011 World Juniors and silver from the 2008 U18s, 2009 Hlinka Cup, and 2015 World Championships.

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