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Vladimir Tarasenko, superstar of the Blues, has 10 goals and 21 points through the team’s first 32 games, good for second in points and third in goals among St. Louis skaters. His production is down from recent years, as he’s on pace for only about 54 points and 25 goals, which would be his first season in the last five without reaching the 30 goal plateau. Only 10 of these points have come at 5v5, making Vladdy’s production even more grim. Trading Tarasenko would be a huge mistake. Here's why.
Photo: © Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Despite struggling to score so far, and all the “no points and a minus-9 in his last 7 games” tweets out there, Vladdy is still an elite player and he’s still showing it this season.
Let’s start with the basics. Tarasenko is one of four St. Louis forwards with a CF% above 50, sitting at 50.53 at 5v5. Not anything remarkable, but bad teams typically punish players into sporting bad possession numbers, which is not the case here. His CF% relative to his teammates is 3.86, showing that he’s still outperforming his teammates in terms of shot rates, again at 5v5.
Tarasenko stands at second among Blues’ forwards at 16.88 xGF at 5v5, meaning that the Blues are getting a high volume of good quality chances when Tarasenko is on the ice, more than any forward other than Brayden Schenn (barely beating Vladdy at 17.09 xGF). Tarasenko’s individual xGF number at 5v5, which highlights the expected goals-for on shots that Tarasenko himself has taken, is first on the team at 6.32.
It’s impossible to look at these numbers and see Tarasenko as a problem on this team, rather than one of the only things that is driving it forward.
The following chart, made by Micah Blake McCurdy and available at hockeyviz.com, is a “With or Without You”, which looks at shot rates relative to each player when they’re playing with Tarasenko, without him, or when 91 is playing without them.
It’s pretty clear to see that essentially every player has better numbers when on the ice at the same time as Vladdy. This is not a coincidence.
So where’s the disconnect? Why is Tarasenko getting a higher quantity and quality of chances than nearly any other forward and still not producing? One number that cannot be ignored is his abysmal 5.06% shooting percentage at 5v5. The only Blues forward that has scored a goal this year sporting a worse shooting percentage is Pat Maroon. Tarasenko’s lowest 5v5 shooting percentage since the 2013-14 season is 10.58%. Meaning in a typical season Vladdy would be scoring at least twice as much at even strength as he has this season. Shooting percentage is not something that skaters can control in the slightest, but rather a number that will regress to his career average.
Side note: some brain geniuses might try to make the argument that a better shot selection would result in a higher shooting percentage. This is dumb and wrong AND Tarasenko’s team-leading ixGF number already shows sufficient shot selection.
Another number that can help quantify how unfortunate Tarasenko has been this year is his PDO, third lowest on the team at 94.46. As I detailed in past articles, PDO is a “luck stat” that typically hovers around 100. Anything higher than ~103 is considered lucky, and anything lower than ~97 is considered unlucky. Tarasenko’s number is well below the unlucky threshold.
Tarasenko’s shooting percentage and PDO reflect a player whose fortunes will turn around, even maintaining his current level of play. His individual numbers and the numbers he gets out of his teammates show a player who is not only not the problem this year, but is one of the few things that fans should be able to get excited about.
There’s the statistical argument against trading Tarasenko. But wait, there’s more!
Trading stars of Vladdy’s level never works. Ever. Nothing that the Blues would reasonably get in return could a) replace his spot on the team or b) have enough potential to outweigh his future output. Tarasenko is an extremely skilled skater who puts up numbers unlike anyone else on the team over the last several years, undeniably exerts effort and shows frustration when things don’t go his team’s way, takes responsibility for his play and the play of his teammates, and has done so much good for the city of St. Louis, which quite frankly is not an attractive location for young professional athletes. He’s cost controlled and on a team-friendly deal for another 4 years. Comparable trades that have been explained as a “culture change” or trading a player who wasn’t “gritty” or “determined enough” result in Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson or P.K. Subban for Shea Weber type deals, which have been laughed at since seconds after their announcements.
Trading Vladimir Tarasenko would be the ultimate waste of an amazing asset. The team would get not only lose one of its only remaining competent forwards, but the value coming back would pale in comparison to the value lost. The team is garbage and something has to change. Trading Tarasenko is not that change.
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