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Tarasenko going to the IIHF Worlds to play for Russia, Should He?

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After a gritty two-goal performance in Game Four of the Honda West Division, SimiFinals Vladimir Tarasenko told reporters, “I have some groin problems. Basically, needs just time to heal while playoffs go on I feel more confident, but our season is done now so I have a lot of time to figure it out.”This morning Lou Korac of NHL.com retweeted an International Ice Hockey Federation Tweet “BREAKING NEWS!!!! Dmitri Orlov & Ilya Samsonov of the @Capitals and Vladimir Tarasenko of the @StLouisBlues  will join @russiahockey at the #IIHFWorlds after quarantine!”

The question to ask is, should he. After missing most of the season while recovering from shoulder surgery, he played in 28 games scored six goals had 10 helpers and was a minus -15 including the playoffs. The groin injury also cost him a few games at the end of the regular season.

Tarasenko just completed the sixth year of an eight-year $60 million contract with an AAV of $7.5 million. He also has a full no-trade clause for the remaining two years. The St. Louis fan base is not too happy with Tarasenko at the moment. They have turned on their former superstar. Posts of “Trade Vlady” and “Let 91 go to Seattle” can be readily found in most Blues Based Facebook Groups.

Why then would he join Team Russia?  When I first heard the news, I was a bit shocked. Why play more hockey when you stated you need to rest your groin? That very question provides part of the answer.

Tarasenko Russia


The two words that stick out are “More hockey.” Since the start of the 2019 season, Tarasenko has played a total of 42 games. When he returned this season from his third shoulder surgery, it was apparent he was not ready for the speed of the game. Daren Pang of Bally’s Sports Midwest the color commentator for the Blues stated many times “He needs to get his timing back.”

Playing in five to six games, while he is playing better may help that. While the IIHF is full contact, the speed, and ferocity of the game is less than the NHL. In Game Four He was able to get a breakaway and fire in a typical Tarasenko style shot.

After a long stretch pass from Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly, Tarasenko bolted down the right-hand side. What he reached the top of the face-off circle he changed his angle towards the net.  While looking to his left he fired the shot to his right stunning Colorado goaltender Philipp Grubauer giving the Blues their first lead in the series and the game 1-0. This was prototypical Tarasenko.

In the third period, while trailing the Avalanche 3-1, the Blues were on a power play. “Tank” set up in the high left slot, and doing his best Alex Ovechkin impression, made the game 3-2. Both goals were the type of plays the team and Blues fans were waiting for. A few more games may help his shot and quick release.

The second reason he would go would be civic pride. Ice hockey in Russia is on the same level as it is in Canada and as football is to us Americans. If there was a football world cup, we would want our best players going. The pride we have in our sport is almost unmatched. Russians feel the same way about the IIHF world. Winning the Gold medal there or in the Olympics is the dream of every Russian hockey player. That dream starts as soon as they put the skates on and grab a stick. This is quite possibly the motivation for him playing.

Both of those are strong reasons. But what of the detractors? The biggest being his health. While it appears his shoulder is better, what of his groin.? Could he hurt it more? What about Covid and the travel restrictions? So many unanswered questions. Really what should he do?

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While these answers are unknown and may make the newest and most critical of fans fret, there is one redeeming value.  The IIHF championship game is on June 7th in Riga, Latvia. This would give Tarasenko a minimum of four months before he would play a competitive hockey game again.

The fan base will be upset with this development. the real question is should they be? Did Tarasenko play to the best of his ability? was he hampered by an injury that affect his play? Can he get back to the All-Star form he had before? Will coach Berube system allow that?

All of these questions are on the minds of Blues fans around the world. the biggest question is what will Armstrong do? do you leave him unprotected and available for the expansion draft? Do you ask him to waive his no-trade clause? With all of these questions, it makes sense for him to say here and answer some of them.

What I wonder is, can he answer a lot of those questions by playing in the IIHF Worlds?  I think he can and him playing just might make some sense.


Tarasenko at practice. (photo Jim Thomas)

The rest that he said he needed he will get. While I do understand the reasons for him going, the question remains, should he?

I am sure in the exit interviews he had with the team and the team doctors gave him the assurance that he would not cause further damage to his current injury. It is also my guess that the team gave its blessing for him to play. Otherwise, it would create a riff that this team does not need going into next season.

While all that may be true, there is one big upside that Tarasenko may have considered. He goes to the worlds and has a great tournament and scores 4 or 5 goals leading Team Russia to the gold, the Same Blues fans that are now wanting him gone could just change their tune a bit.