Era Adjusted: Vladimir Tarasenko vs. young Brendan Shanahan


St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko. (Tim Spyers/AP)

For the past couples weeks, I’ve been talking about the best goal-scorers of all-time when adjusted for era by They’re neat little lists, but what I want to do this week is take two players – just two – from completely different eras and look at them head-to-head.

With the Leafs taking on the St. Louis Blues on Hockey Night in Canada this week, the first name that jumps to mind is Vladimir Tarasenko. He’s a goal-scoring monster in an era that has the NHL begging and pleading for more goal-scoring. Since we know era-adjusted stats tend to be very kind to today’s players, I’m sure Tarasenko’s numbers will jump off the page.

But who to compare him to?

My first thought was Thomas Steen. After all, he’s Alex Steen’s dad, and Alex was drafted by Toronto before getting traded to St. Louis in a trade as uneven as a see-saw with a chicken on one side and an anvil on the other. Thomas wasn’t really an offensive dynamo however, so the comparison was unfair.

Doug Gilmour was another name I considered. He played for the Blues and Leafs and didn’t actually leave St. Louis until he was about Tarasenko’s age. Even though Gilmour could score goals, nobody would really categorize him as a “goal-scorer.” Over his career, Gilmour had more than twice as many goals as he had assists, and he won the Selke Trophy as a stellar defensive forward.

But no – we need a pure sniper here.

So how about… Brendan Shanahan.

Sure, he never played for the Leafs, but now he’s the boss. And when you’re Lou Lamoriello’s boss, you’re the boss. Shanahan also happened to be a player for the St. Louis Blues around the same age that Tarasenko is now. Shanahan also happens to be 13th all-time in NHL goal-scoring.

Since Tarasenko was 23-years-old when he had his breakout season, let’s compare Vladimir Tarasenko to Brendan Shanahan at the same age.

Age 23 season
Brendan Shanahan Vladimir Tarasenko
Goals 33 37
ADJ Goals 29 42

Between the ages of 23 and 25, Tarasenko and Shanahan had very similar production when adjusting for era. At age 23 alone? Not so much.

Shanahan’s 33 goals in 1991-92 get bumped down to 29 when adjusted for era, which isn’t a huge fall. Tarasenko’s 37 goals in 2014-15 rise to 42, which isn’t a huge move either. But when you take both of them into consideration however, along with Tarasenko straight up scoring more goals, and Tarasenko beats Shanahan 42 goals to 29. On top of that, Tarasenko also had 39 era adjusted assists to Shanahan’s 32, and 81 era adjusted points to Shanahan’s 61.

Age 24 season
Brendan Shanahan Vladimir Tarasenko
Goals 51 40
ADJ Goals 41 45

Now we’re talking.

Shanahan’s 33 goals at age 23 was nothing to sneeze at, but it wasn’t quite the monster breakout Tarasenko had. A year later at age 24 in 1992-93, Shanahan would explode into the 50-goal club.

Tarasenko’s 24-year-old campaign — in 2015-16 — was his first 40-goal season.

When adjusted for era, Shanahan’s 51 goals become 41 (1992-93 was a crazy year for goals around the league). Meanwhile, Tarasenko’s 40 goals suddenly become 45, four more than Shanahan.

If you’re nostalgic for ’90s hockey, go on YouTube and search “Brendan Shanahan 1992-93.” Remember, he scored 51 goals that season. You know what all the videos are of? Fights.

Shanahan had 174 penalty minutes in 1992-93, which was only topped by the 211 he posted the following season.

Age 25 season
Brendan Shanahan Vladimir Tarasenko
Goals 52 39
ADJ Goals 47 43

But not even era adjusted numbers allow Tarasenko to surpass Shanahan’s 25-year-old season. In 1993-94, Shanahan scored what would end up being the highest single-season goal total of his Hockey Hall of Fame career, with 52. Because the 1993-94 season didn’t feature as much offence as 1992-93, he only loses five goals when adjusted for era to end up with 47. In his age-25 season a year ago, Tarasenko scored 39 goals, which increase to 43 when adjusted for era. Here, the 25-year-old Shanahan bests 25-year-old Tarasenko by four era adjusted goals.

All in all, for their ages 23, 24 and 25 seasons, Shanahan wins the actual goal battle 136 to 116. But when adjusting for era, Tarasenko comes out on top 130: 117. A difference of just 13 era adjusted goals spread over three seasons? These might not play the same brand of hockey, but when it comes to putting the puck in the net, Tarasenko and Shanahan are pretty even.

Will Tarasenko end up in the Hall of Fame as well? Maybe a better question would be who will bring their starving fanbase a Stanley Cup first?

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