Vladimir Tarasenko has owned NHL headlines over the past week, just narrowly beating out Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Michael Del Zotto. Since being re-united with his former Novosibirsk Sibir teammate – Jori Lehtera – Tarasenko has been on an absolute tear and already has nearly 1/3 of his career-high in points set last season, in 50 fewer games. Rounding out the Blues most commonly used even-strength trio (12.51% of all ES ice-time) is Jaden Schwartz who was drafted just two spots ahead of Vladimir Tarasenko at #14 overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. The three have been utterly dominant, combining for 48 points in a total of 41 games played. If style points counted, the race for the Art Ross Trophy wouldn’t be close…
How Vladimir Taransenko Could’ve Been an Ottawa Senator
Coming into the 2010 NHL Entry Draft the belief around Ottawa and the NHL was that the Senators would draft a forward. After all, they had used their previous two first-round picks on Erik Karlsson (15th, 2008) and Jared Cowen (9th, 2009). The Sens’ future seemed to be relatively bright on defense going into the June draft, while the forward group had just dealt with the Dany Heatley fiasco, and suddenly faced a dearth of offensive super stardom. Plus, center Jason Spezza would need another winger to accompany the aging Daniel Alfredsson. The cards seemed to fall right into place for Ottawa, as a highly-skilled Russian RW prospect named Vladimir Tarasenko seemed to have luckily fallen right into it’s lap. Alas, general manager Bryan Murray had other plans.
Prior to announcing the Ottawa Senators first round selection with the 16th overall pick, a trade was announced by commissioner Gary Bettman. Bryan Murray had sent the Sens’ pick straight up to the St. Louis Blues for their 17th overall selection from the 2009 draft, Swedish defenseman David Rundblad. Upon that announcement, Sens fans raced to their various Interwebs machines in order to research the little known defenseman from Lyksele, Sweden and played professional SEL hockey for Skelleftea.
They liked much of what they saw…
The Ottawa Senators would leave Rundblad in the SEL for the 2010-11 season, where people around the league started taking notice as he compiled 50 points in 55 regular season GP. He then finally made his NHL debut for the Sens in the 2011-12 season and didn’t take long to endear himself to the hometown fans.
While Rundblad has exhibited some of the offensive skill that had made fans fall in love with the idea of him being a long-term piece of the Sens’ puzzle, his defensive play was lacking. Rundblad racked up a -11 rating in just 24 GP for Ottawa before Bryan Murray made one of the most shocking moves during his tenure as GM. In December of 2011 rumors began swirling out of Phoenix that the third overall pick from the 2007 NHL Entry Draft – Kyle Turris – was unhappy with the Coyotes and wanted out.
People doubted his claims as on the surface he hadn’t accomplished much in his brief NHL career, amassing just 46 points in 131 NHL GP. During his tenure there he had spent significant time in the team’s bottom six, including time alongside the likes of Paul Bissonnette. With the reassurance of newly hired head coach Paul MacLean – who had seen Turris plenty of times during his time as assistant coach of the Red Wings – Murray pulled the trigger on a trade that would send David Rundblad and a second round pick to Phoenix in exchange for the promising but disgruntled prospect.
Why the Ottawa Senators Are Better off with Kyle Turris Over Taranseko…For Now
Prior to this season, Kyle Turris had 116 points in 179 GP as a member of the Ottawa Senators. Vladimir Tarasenko had played just 102 games for the Blues prior to this season and recorded 62 points. A meagre difference of just 0.04 points per game in Turris’ favor. A difference that Tarasenko will make up shortly with his pace of 17 points in 14 GP in 2014-15 – compared to Turris who has eight points in 14 games for the Sens.
It seems pretty likely that Vladimir Tarasenko is the better player – or at the very least – will be before long. His offensive talents are superior and the Blues are a much better team than the Senators. It’s that latter point however, that makes Kyle Turris the better fit in Ottawa. The Sens never fully recovered from losing Heatley’s offense. Milan Michalek had a 35-goal season in his second year in Ottawa, but as the injuries piled up, it became clear that he’ll be unlikely to return to that form. And then Daniel Alfredsson left, and then Jason Spezza wanted out…
Turris is now relied on heavily for leadership up front, along with linemates Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur. A role that Vladimir Tarasenko – who doesn’t turn 23 until next month – wouldn’t be able to fill. The Blues offensive corps is also far deeper than Ottawa’s, meaning Tarasenko often has spent time against second or third pairing defenders, while Turris is nearly always met by the league’s top units.
Although Turris is no match for Tarasenko offensively or in the highlight reels, he’s also relied on far more by the Sens than the younger star would be. And right now, that’s what they need.