When the Blues broke for the offseason, Vladimir Tarasenko headed back to Russia with a message from the club.

“We’ve given him a clear mandate on what we expect when he gets back here, what we’re going to see from him on a conditioning level, the grind that he’s going to have to do," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said recently.

Tarasenko, 21, played 38 games in his first season with the Blues. He had five goals and nine points in January and was named the NHL's rookie of the month. He finished the year with eight goals and 20 points.

During the regular season, the right winger ranked ninth among Blues' forwards in ice time with 13 minutes, 24 seconds per game. He was eighth among forwards in power-play ice time (1:47).

In the playoffs, Tarasenko was a healthy scratch in five of the team's six games, and the game in which he did dress, he saw only 5:51 of ice time on the fourth line.

Perhaps Tarasenko hit the proverbial wall. The most games he had played in one season previously was 44 in the KHL in 2011-12.

After that season, the Russian national coach, Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, indicated in an interview with Sovetsky Sport, that Tarasenko was left off the 2012 World Championship roster due to his conditioning level.

"This young man still needs to learn," Bilyaletdinov said. "And to understand that there’s a completely different level here. To play in the World Championships you need to prepare.

“Tarasenko came in such a condition that I thought he wasn’t quite prepared. I don’t know what it is related to. I wouldn’t want to discuss Vladimir’s attitude to work. But he needs to learn a certain lesson."