The Tarasenko Narrative
June 12, 2019, is a day I know I will never forget, as most of the people reading this will not. Fifty-two years of frustration erased in just two hours. But what a lot of us forget is what happened with just under nine minutes remaining in the third period.
The St Louis Blues led the Boston Bruins 2-0, and the Bruins were swarming. The Bruins outplayed the Blues in the first period, despite going into the locker room down by two. They consider the two-to-nothing score the most dangerous lead in the sport.
That is where history had us at the moment. While they credit Alex Pietrangelo with the game-winner, it is what Vladimir Tarasenko does that cements the first championship in franchise history. Tarasenko gets the puck in the neutral zone and while skating down the left side he brings big Zdeno Chara and the young Charlie Coyle with him.
Chara and Coyle have him wrapped up, or so they thought. Tarasenko has always had good hockey sense and even better vison. He looks over his shoulder at the streaking Brayden Schenn coming right down center ice. The look-off is what seals the cup.
Coyle starts skating to the middle of the ice, but he has his back to the play. He is looking directly at Tuukka Rask. Chara, sensing a pass behind the net breaks from Tarasenko and heads towards the net to cut off the passing lane.
In just a moment, with the simplest of movements, Tarasenko becomes a hero. His pass to Schenn is on the tape and in the back of the net. The most dangerous lead in the game is no longer a factor. Tarasenko becomes a legend in the 314.
Wait not so fast. Move from 2019 to 2021 and Tarasenko is now one of the most hated figures to wear the note. What has changed? What took this hero to a zero? Why are the guy’s jerseys now in the bargain bin?
While many of you are saying the change is his shoulder, I think it is something even simpler than that. What changed is the narrative.
The Narrative is how a story is told and how it is controlled. While working in the shipyard, one of my co-workers favorite sayings was “The first lie wins.” He was right. He even used that to get me removed from my position, even though I had done things no one else had ever accomplished.
How we perceive a story is normally set by the person telling it. But that is not always the case. As this season was ending, we heard Tarasenko was going to go play in the Worlds. I wrote about this and thought it was good to get more hockey under his belt.
That was the narrative that the team and Tarasenko’s camp wanted us to believe. Turns out he had asked the Blues to trade him and went to the world to show off his talent. What may have been done with the best of intentions has backfired worse than the bananas Eddie Murphy used in Beverly Hills Cop.
All off this has led me to the question why? Why has the player who has given this city and team the best years of his career now want out? Why did he fire Mike Liut has his agent? Why hire Artemi Panarin’s agent? Why are the Blues allowing this? Just so many questions.
It all comes down to the narrative. When Jeremy Rutherford of the Athletic broke this story, one of the lost ingredients was his shoulder surgeries. How can this be lost, as it as all we have heard about, you are screaming at the screen right now.
Yes, but what we have lost is how the doctors sanctioned by the Blues messed his shoulder up not once but twice. His shoulder was first injured in the last game of the 2017-2018 season against the Colorado Avalanche.
The second injury came after the up win on a play that seemed innocent. That play and a global pandemic have cost him two years of his career and his reputation in the Lou.
But again, my question is why did the narrative change?
The 2020 Playoff bubble and the 2021 season were not the best of times for the Blue Note. The boys in blue have posted a 2-10-1 record in the playoffs. They entered the 2021 season as a potential Stanley Cup Champion, but that quickly faded after an 8-0 drubbing by the President’s Trophy-winning Colorado Avalanche. That was game number two.
Many fans point to COVID and injuries as an excuse to make them feel better. But every team dealt with injuries and the global pandemic. So why then should the Blues get a pass? What went wrong?
If we are honest with ourselves, and many in the Facebook groups are not, we would point to some extremely questionable coaching decisions and comments.
Why did Zach Sanford continue to get top-line minutes while making mistake after mistake? Why did Mike Hoffman, a perennial 30 goal scorer, start the season on the third line? Why did Jake Walman continue to get ice time, while Niko Mikkola who has a higher ceiling and played much better, continue to watch from the press box?
These questions and many others remain unanswered, but just mention that you are unhappy with the performance of head coach Craig Berube, and the fan base will treat you like Marie Antoinette and scream “off with your head”!
A source close to Mike Hoffman stated, “One of the reasons he signed with the Montreal Canadiens, was that he was unsure how he would be used in St. Louis”. Hoffman asked the Blues for assurances that he would be used on the top two lines and the top power-play but was not given it.
So, Tarasenko asking for a trade should really surprise no one. Tarasenko left his agent, Liut, because he was unhappy with his ice time and power-play position. Now that kind of sounds familiar.
Why then are we so unhappy with Vova, but not with Hoffman?
Recently I saw Tarasenko skating with his teammates at the Centene Community Ice Center. I took this opportunity to talk to him and see what his attitude was. The smile on his face and the way he interacted with other players told me the narrative is all wrong.
Tarasenko’s teammates may understand exactly what is going on and at least in the open, are very supportive. I watched Colton Parayko skate in pads and when asked how his back felt, he replied “Great”!
I know I do not have the access that I would like, but I know what the eye test tells me. In the below video, which I took at that same practice, you can see Tarasenko skating hard, using his shoulder and flashing that brilliant smile.
— Guy “The Hawaii Blues fan” (@HISTLBluesFan) August 31, 2021
We, as a fan base, need to take a step back and allow this locker room to control the camaraderie which has been a staple of this current group.
Will Tarasenko get traded? I don’t know. Are there deals that have been talked about? Yes, I am very sure there were. Could 91 score 40? Yes, I think he can. I also hope he scores those 40 for the Blues.
Till Next time Hockey fans.
Guy “Hawaii Blues Fan” Bensing