Does Tarasenko’s injury worry the defending champs?



Vladimir Tarasenko gets set for a quick shot after the faceoff.

Bradley Piros , Sports Editor

Back on Oct. 24, Vladimir Tarasenko left the game with six minutes remaining in the first period against the Los Angeles Kings with an undisclosed upper body injury. In a press conference with Blues GM Doug Armstrong Tuesday morning, he confirmed that it was a dislocated shoulder.

It happened after a clean hit from a Kings player who got right into Tarasenko’s armpit and popped his shoulder clean out of place. Tarasenko did have successful surgery yesterday according to Armstrong, but it will still sideline him for at least five months when he will be re-evaluated. So, how does this injury affect the team, who’s going to step up to the plate and do Blues’ fans need to start panicking?

Tarasenko led the Blues last season with his 33 goals in the regular season and was second on the team with his 68 points right behind Ryan O’Reilly who had 77. Tarasenko was second on the team in playoff goals with 11 right behind Jaden Schwartz who had 12.

Tarasenko’s absence didn’t affect the rest of the game against the Kings. The Blues still won 5-2 at home, but then they went on the road. It was the highly anticipated Stanley Cup Final rematch against the Boston Bruins. That game was always going to be tough, but getting shut out 3-0 on the road wasn’t a good look. Neither was almost blowing the game against the Detroit Redwings. The Blues still won, and I mean, two points are two points, but it was a filthy overtime win.

St. Louis was off to a hot start and took a 2-0 lead after the first period, then had a 3-1 lead after two. But, a two-goal lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey. The Redwings scored three straight goals to take a 4-3 lead and it was awful. O’Reilly tied the game up at 4-4 on the power play and then David Perron went on to win it in overtime 5-4. Detroit is the second to last team in the NHL and the game might worry the Blues and their fans.

It was pretty evident that Tarasenko’s absence had an effect on the game and O’Reilly made that pretty clear after the game against Detroit.

“It’s tough,” O’Reilly said. “He’s a huge player for our team. It’s a tough loss and you can see tonight, it impacts us. We all have to be better for when we’re missing him.”

Unquestionably, losing Tarasenko is unfortunate and a big deal, but guys will step up and continue to produce without him, they’ll have no choice. Let’s start with the guys already on the roster.

The current team leader is center Brayden Schenn. He better keep producing after that fat 8-year, $52 million contract extension. Luckily, for the time being, he has turned into an absolute machine. His nine goals lead the team and he’s snagged four assists as well to lead the team with 13 points.

Closely following behind him is David Perron. He hasn’t scored that many goals with only three, but he’s a great right-hand man to O’Reilly with his nine assists. Speaking of O’Reilly, he also has 12 points, six goals and six assists. Also helping out Schenn and O’Reilly is Jaden Schwartz. He’s got 10 points with nine assists as well.

There are two other guys that haven’t been off to hot starts this year but look to be pretty promising. Looking to have break out seasons are Robert Thomas and Sammy Blais.

Through 70 games in the regular, Thomas had nine goals and 24 assists. Blais, through only 32 games, had only two goals and two assists. Thomas started to get more time on the ice but Blais never really did. In the playoffs they had six and three points, respectively.

If Schenn and O’Reilly can keep at it with this kind of pace, with the help of Perron and Schwartz, the Blues should have nothing to worry about. If the Blues can get some guys already on the roster to step up and if Jordan Binnington can stay healthy, the Blues should have nothing to worry about. If all those things don’t happen, the Blues might find themselves in last place again on Jan. 3. There’s a lot of what ifs, but one thing still stands: St. Louis has depth. Let’s take a look at who might get the call up to the big leagues.

There are two obvious choices, both from the Blues AHL affiliate team the San Antonio Rampage. The first being Klim Kostin. He’s got a goal and four assists on his AHL resume through eight games. Last season, through 66 games, Kostin scored 10 goals and had 14 assists, which really aren’t great numbers. That is why he wouldn’t be my first choice to call up.

That would be Nathan Walker. He currently leads the Rampage with 12 points, seven goals and five assists. Last season for the Hershey Bears, the AHL affiliate for the Washington Capitals, he played in 58 games, scoring 17 goals and having 22 assists. He’s also had some NHL experience with the Capitals and the Edmonton Oilers. In total, he’s appeared in 12 NHL games, scoring a goal and assisting another. He would make more sense to get the callup.

There is technically one other option, but I really don’t see this being necessary. With Tarasenko out, that frees up around $7 million in cap space to go out and acquire somebody for a couple of months and ditch them before the trade deadline while Tarasenko recovers. There have been whispers that Armstrong might have something up his sleeve, but I honestly doubt it and really don’t think that will be needed. In my opinion, you still have a great group of guys that are hungry and ready for more playing time, so just let them do their thing.

Armstrong did say in yesterday’s press conference, though, that a move would not be made until after tonight’s game against the Minnesota Wild. Eventually, something will have to be done, but we’ll just have to wait and see. In short, it’s not time to panic. The team will rise up and we will be fine, rest assured