What’s a Rub Off Means?
It wasn’t that long ago when Vladimir Tarasenko flashed his broken smile – the one with the missing tooth – and asked a reporter, “What’s a rub-off mean?” The words weren’t exactly that, but the gist was there.
Ha-ha. Let’s make a funny joke about masturbation in front of this clueless yet lovable Russian star. The clip was made for morning zoo radio, as that quote became a meme, and gained a life of its own. What’s a rub-off?
Well, the fans should be proud of themselves because they have obviously rubbed off on Tarasenko and not in a happy ending kind of way (pardon the … never mind). The sniper is ready to bolt to lands unknown just to escape the cruelty that is St. Louis sports. Oh, he’s not the first and not the last St. Louis sports star to head north, south, east, or west with bitter feelings toward the Gateway City.
Was it the fans who are prone to hysterics, the local and national media that love a shocking narrative, or was it the team who asked him quietly to change his entire game to fit their system? This was the system of a Stanley Cup-winning coach who had actually been fired from his previous stop in Philadelphia for, guess what? Not being able to relate to the star of the team – Steve Mason at the time.
Who could blame Vladimir Tarasenko for being pissed?
First, let’s establish who he is as a player because first and foremost he was drafted to score goals for the Blues. He hit 40 just once but nipped the high-30s a few times too. He’s been hurt and had surgery, only to find out independently the Blues medical staff is nothing but a bunch of boobs.
He had to see a third specialist to fix his ailing shoulder. When your game is predicated by blistering wristers from the point, a bum shoulder would certainly have some effect on how well you can shoot. But unlike so many before him, Tarasenko helped the Blues hoist the Stanley Cup in 2019.
Now, just two years and a pandemic later, people have him penciled in to play with Artemi Panarin in New York, or with Alex Pietrangelo in Vegas, or Mathew Barzal with the Islanders via a trade. Visions of Matthew Tchacuk are dancing through St. Louisan’s heads as they dream up fantasy Tarasenko-for-Tchacuk plus draft picks scenarios that will never happen.
So, now the days of 91 zipping in and out of the defensive zone are possibly over in St. Louis, or so it appears for Vladi. The fan base that vilified him for so many missed playoff goals, or those dubious neutral-zone giveaways are split on Tarasenko.
Half of the fan base begs for him to stay. They realize the extent of his injury prevented him from having a Vladi-type of season. Plus, the Blues added several scorers in the offseason including power-play specialist Mike Hoffman, that all seemed to neutralize Tarasenko’s effectiveness.
And with last season in the bag, it has now emerged that Tarasenko lost confidence in the Blues medical staff because of two botched surgeries. Before his injury, he was as an elite scorer in the league as we had ever seen. After the second injury, he rustled up about as much excitement as a fourth-pine defenseman. Rumors of his moodiness in the locker room would seep out into the media. The Tarasenko camp-, it was said, desperately wanted out of the grip of St. Louis.
At least that’s what we are told. Recently on The BlueNote Fan Report, Guy Bensing and I were discussing this very topic. Who benefitted from the media leak about the injury? Why was the story positioned with a slightly anti-Tarasenko tone? What does Tarasenko’s camp gain by advertising they had not just one but TWO botched surgeries on his shoulder – a shoulder by the way that helps him score terrific goals?
Where is the team in all of this? Why hasn’t anyone – Berube, GM Doug Armstrong, or even owner Tom Stillman addressed this drama? They certainly weighed in on the benching of Hoffman because of uninspired play. However, on this Tarasenko ordeal, the radio silence from the Blues’ front office is deafening.
My second point is the PR value here. There is zero. The Blues come out looking like the heavy, as their respected staff of doctors and medical personnel have basically been called a bunch of quacks by Tarasenko. He put his trust in faith in the team’s medical staff, and the team failed him. Where is the press conference addressing that? Why aren’t beat reporters camped outside Armstrong’s office demanding answers to this?
I surmise it is because the reporters have a better rapport with the team than they do with the players in many cases. In Tarasenko’s case, his inability to speak fluent English (although he is amazing at it and his growth in that area has been stupendous), and his perceived moodiness – all while carrying the weight of 52 losing seasons on his shoulders – was abut much don’t you think?
I honestly wonder why any legitimate star would ever want to play in this city?
Harsh? Yes, but it’s true. All the great ones have left town with a gallon of bitter beer in their bellies. Wayne “Freaking” Gretzky was on the verge of signing a long-term deal with the Blues until Mike Keenan FUBAR-ed that up. Brett Hull – perhaps the greatest Blue of all time – left in fits. TJ Oshie ignited his career away from St. Louis, and just go down the list and look at the stars who left town and why? Most times it comes down to a disagreement with management or an inability to strike up a deal.
This fantasy league talk of a deal involving Tarasenko is starting to remind me eerily of an old pitcher the Cards coveted but not too much. They squabbled over a pretty inconsequential amount of money, but the beer barons of St. Louis held strong, and Steve Carlton went on to have a Hall of Fame career with the Philadelphia Phillies. Every time he played the Cardinals, he made sure he stuck it to us. And he sure did.
I see Tarasenko finding a brilliant spot, where he can contribute but not be relied upon to carry the entire team. In St. Louis, before the Cup-winning season, all eyes were on Tarasenko, who like former Slovak and Blues star Pavol Demitra, shouldered much of the blame for the Blues’ peeked offensive showing in the playoffs. Personally, I think Tarasenko is too classy of a player to publicly annihilate St. Louis a’la Stan Kroenke who burned the Stan Musial bridge and half a dozen more on his way to LA.
As a Blues fan, I feel like I owe Tarasenko an apology. I think he got a raw deal. He was held accountable for things other players – players of similar salary – were not expected to do. When things went right, Tarasenko was always a piece of that action. When things went wrong, he clearly took the blame. Why? Because he was a high-priced player with huge expectations that he simply did not meet.
Excuse me, but doesn’t that describe every team that did not win the Stanley Cup this season?
As I look at the family picture of Tarasenko and his beautiful wife and their kids with the Stanley Cup – the baby actually resting inside the chalice, I wonder why this photo isn’t more iconic? Here is a star who came to America to win a Stanley Cup – came close a few times – but finally got to lift it.
He took a studio-worthy portrait of his family with the silver cup. In the photo, Tarasenko is smiling – flashing that toothless grin of his – and his wife apparently never gets chilly. The family is enjoying the moment, even though two of the three children have no idea what that big silver thing even is, and why people want it so badly.
So St. Louis fans, don’t rip on Tarasenko for getting the hell out of Dodge City. Don’t boo him upon his return. Don’t write pages of pages of blog copy about how he destroyed his career here. He is a significant player, on the mend, but he will be back. All of this negative talk and fantasy deals that knock his value way way down are comical. It is no wonder Tarasenko wants to leave.
I am going to miss that guy, but I can’t be mad, bro …
People here just tend to rub off on you the wrong way.
Thanks for reading! Comments, pitchforks, and torches are welcome.
A St. Louis Blues blogger, NHL podcaster, and writer, and contributor for the STL Fan Report.