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Taking on Tarasenko: Why Injured Past is Behind Him



Vladimir Tarasenko, New York Islanders
St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko (Photo-via St. Louis Blues Twitter)

The biggest concern with current St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko is his injury history. It’s an unavoidable conversation given his age, 30, and the number of surgeries needed to repair his shoulder, three.

It’s why the New York Islanders and the rest of the NHL passed on Vladimir Tarasenko in the summer of 2021 when they all had the ability to get him while his value was at an all-time low.

So there’s a chance that one bad hit against Tarasenko could not just knock him out for a few weeks or an entire season. One more shoulder injury could be the end of a career.

News flash.

Any player on any given day in any given game could take a hit that ends a career. That’s the risk involved with playing a contact sport.

Now a year ago, the concern about Tarasenko was justifiable. Tarasenko appeared in just 34 games from 2019-2021.

In NYI Hockey Now’s article about the New York Islanders acquiring Vladimir Tarasenko, it includes his history, his trade request from last summer, and what it would take to acquire the talented scorer based on another trade we saw in the NHL earlier this offseason.

Trading For Tarasenko: A Miss in 2021, A Home Run Move in 2022?

Because of Matthew Tkachuk’s trade rumors and him being a St. Louis native, there was speculation he could be on his way to the Blues, which made Vladimir Tarasenko a potential salary cap casualty. With Tkachuk being traded to the Florida Panthers on Friday night, it would not be surprising of Tarasenko stayed.

This current article that you are reading is about Vladimir Tarasenko’s health.

Did you know that Vladimir Tarasenko took 75 hits in 2021-22, laid the body 83 times, and also blocked 45 shots?

Where does that stack up career-wise?

The 75 hits Tarasenko took was the highest total since the 2016-17 season. His 83 hits were the third highest hit mark of his 10-year career. And his 45 shot blocks were a career-high.

Going back to the hits taken total, Tarasenko was tied with 11 players in 2021-22, with New York Rangers Mika Zibanejad, Arizona Coyotes Nick Schmaltz, and Buffalo Sabres Kyle Okposo, to name a few.

Not only did Tarasenko play in more games than all the players that took 83 hits, but he had the most amount of goals and was only second in points behind Zibanejad.

Shoulder injuries, for those that have dealt with them, affect much more than just physicality. Depending on the injury, lifting your arm a certain way or holding too much weight can lead to tremendous amounts of pain.

Or shooting and passing a puck.

In 2021-22, Tarasenko shot the puck 230 times. While that number was not close to his career-high (306), his goal totals were (34), as he was six shy of his career-high 40, which he netted back in 2015-16. Not to mention, Tarasenko scored at the second highest rate of his career, as he shot at a 14.8% clip (15.44 in 2013-14).

People then might think, well, Tarasenko was taking smarter shots, so he did not hurt his shoulder.

Vladimir Tarasenko’s Individual Expected Goals For in 2021-22 was 23.64. He scored over 10 more goals than expected, which means that he was not just taking the perfect shot. When he had a lane and a chance to let the puck go, he did that.

What else is hard to do with shoulder injuries?

Yes, passing.

Not only did Tarasenko score 34 goals, but he also collected 48 assists in 2021-22, a career-high in that category. Twenty-seven of his 48 assists were primary assists.

Now there are some categories where Tarasenko did not play to the levels we saw when he was healthy a few years ago. He created 247 individual scoring chances and only 64 high-danger chances, two numbers not close to what we saw in the season prior to his injury (287, 102).

But there’s a good reason for that.

Despite leading the St. Louis Blues in scoring and playing on the top line alongside Pavel Buchnevich and Jordan Kyrou, Vladimir Tarasenko’s 16:55 ATOI ranked sixth amongst Blues forwards.

So it’s safe to say that Tarasenko made the most of the ice time that his head coach Craig Berube gave him.

Now, Tarasenko did not play in all 82 games for the St. Louis Blues in 2021-22. He missed five games due to COVID-19 protocols, one with an undisclosed injury and the other due to illness.

All advanced statistics in this article were courtesy of Natural Stat Trick