Ask Gary: Can the Lightning sign Kucherov?

by Gary Shelton on September 17, 2016 · 3 comments

in College Sports in Florida, Florida State University, general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays, University of Florida

(Each week, the readers take over and play Ask Gary. They send in a question, or a couple, on Thursday night or Friday morning and we all talk about the world of sports.  Think of it as a radio show where you don't have to be on hold. Join us and ask a question, make a comment or be funny. Send the questions to

Saturday, 6 a.m.

Regarding the Lightning and  Nikita Kucherov's situation, I can't imagine him playing in a positive state of mind without a new contract. How do you see this playing out and where will they find the money to sign him?

Barry McDowell ​
They will find the money. I think the challenge now is deciding whether to keep Ben Bishop for another year or move a piece like Ryan Callahan or Valtteri Filppula.
The last thing I would do right now is challenge general manager Stevie Yzerman, who has had a terrific off-season. Yzerman realizes how important Kucherov is to the success of this team. He'll get a deal done.

Still, this is the reality. You can't give everyone a raise without it eventually paying the

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price. Someone we like and admire is going to have to be moved.  There is only so much money under the cap.

Which professional athlete, of a team sport, has exceeded your expectations at the start of his/her career by the end of his career the most?

Scott Myers

Interesting question. Most great players are great from the time the game kicks off.

The first name that comes to mind is Ronde Barber. Did you see Ronde's debut against Rob Moore of the Cardinals? Barber looked lost and out of place. But he became one of the greatest Buc players with that amazing instinct of his.

Tom Brady fooled most of us. He was used his first year of playing like he was keeping Drew Bledsoe's seat warm. Instead, he grew into an amazing player.

Derrick Brooks wasn't that impressive as a rookie. Of course, the Bucs were playing him on the wrong side of the defense where he locked up with the tight end, instead of letting him run and tackle. One assistant coach said he was the worst looking prospect he had ever seen. Can you believe that?

The thing is, stardom happens on its own schedule. I much prefer guys who had to work to achieve it than those who have it thrust upon them early and let it go to waste. (Josh Freeman.)

Baltimore                       2
 Toronto                         2
 New York                      5
Gary, does it get more embarrassing to be a Tampa Bay sport fan than this?
Howard Powders
Howard, it's been a long time since I've been embarrassed by the results of the local sports team. I grew up pulling for the Atlanta teams, which weren't very good. I started covering the Dolphins after they were in a Super Bowl, and I watched them go down. I wrote about the Bucs, Lightning and Rays, who have all had terrible years.
If anything is embarrassing to a Tampa Bay sports town, it's how often Tampa Bay's sports teams have been among the worst in their league. The Bucs, the Lightning and the Rays have flirted with being their sports worst franchise. All of them have had bad guys in their uniforms.
But there have been good years, too. The Bucs have been to a Super Bowl and two NFC title games. The Rays have raised a lot of banners and they've been a World Series. The Lighting have won a Stanley Cup final and lost one. It isn't Boston, but it compares with a lot of cities.
This was not a good season for the Rays. But they've been there before, and when they started this season, we all believed there was a shot at winning. Maybe we were foolish, maybe not. But I'm not sure a sports team should cover a town in shame. It's just sports.
Would you be better if the Rays were better? Obviously, there is an energy that runs through the community when a team is good, but I wouldn't go as far as to say I'm embarrassed when it's not here.
The Rays have to own a lot about this season. They share in the disinterested (for once). But I managed to go out despite a bad record.

Just a gripe. I was curious why the USF Football team seems to take third or fourth-billing with the area's primary newspaper (The Tampa Bay Times) coverage.  The other weekend I open the newspaper to see U of F plastered on the front page of the sports section after a win versus the mighty Massachusetts Minutemen.  I also hear area sports reporters complaining about the lack of attendance at USF Bulls games.  Do you think there's a direct relationship?  Isn't it time to put UoF, FSU, and U of M on the back pages with the high school scores and keep the USF Bulls on the front page?  Your comments.

Rick Martin

This was true when I worked for the Times, and I imagine it's true still. There are a lot of factors going into a game as far as which teams get most of the publicity.

This weekend, I would bet it would be FSU, because they have the biggest game of any school in the game against Louisville. Whether the Seminoles win or lose, that's going to be the news of the day.

I certainly can't defend UMass, but USF was playing Towson that same weekend. It doesn't make me excited. Going into that game, I would have paid more attention to Florida, because they were playing a new quarterback. You knew that going in. You could build your coverage around it. Luke Del Rio was going to be good, or he was going to flop. That's the biggest news of the day.

You can always adjust later. If USF played a classic game, or if one of their players had a day for the ages. But as you look at the schedule, that's the plan.

Yes, this is USF's home base. But don't dismiss the number of Florida or FSU fans we have. I've had FSU fans approach me and suggest that Florida had so many more articles across the year than  FSU did.

I don't think the coverage of the teams, particularly after a game, has a great deal to do with attendance. There are Florida fans and FSU fans and USF fans and UCF fans. It's a rare fan who is sitting around deciding if he wants to go to, say, USF's game or Florida's game.

USF is still the new kid on the block. They don't have an on-campus stadium. I think those are reasons that fans go where they go.

Do you expect any other coaching or front office changes with the Rays?

Jim Willson

I don't expect any. When the Rays fired Derek Shelton, they said they did it so Chad Mattola would have some time in the new job before next season. If that's true, wouldn't a new first-base coach or a new pitching coach need the same?

It's always possible that a coach on staff might want a different job, or he might be close to a man who is being hired as a manager. But it would be a surprise if there are any changes.

I read that the Bucs tried out Kroy Biermann, but there has been no signing.   Have you heard anything?
Jim Willson
Once the NFL season has begun, teams will sign different practice squad players, but they usually only sign guys for the active roster when there is a need because of injury. I think Beirmann was one of those tried out after Jaquies Smith was injured, but the Bucs decided to go a different way.
Remember. Part of what teams sign is familiarity. That's why someone like Kourtnei Brown makes sense and Bierrman doesn't. He's a linebacker, a 3-4 linebacker at that. But if the Bucs have a need, they'll know more about him. They work out a lot of possibilities like that.
Maybe he'll catch on somewhere this season.
Do you think that Kucherov will be signed before the season starts?
Jim Willson
I think the Lightning would prefer that. If the problem is moving a player to make room for him under the cap, then training camp is a time for that. Remember, a salary move is one not just for this season, but for the seasons to come.
I'll repeat. If any general manager deserves confidence, it's Stevie Yzerman after his off-season haul.

What do you think USF’s realistic chances are to be asked to join the Big 12 conference? How would it impact their football program going forward if they don’t make it assuming some schools in their conference like Houston could possibly leave? Given the poor attendance at USF games for football and basketball and the challenges we have in this area to support our professional teams, do you think USF could ever become a legitimate big-time college program in either football or basketball? The TV market may be big but it doesn’t necessarily mean people will tune in to watch those games.

Larry Beller

Larry, first things first. No, I have never liked USF's chances of joining the Big 12. I just don't think there is enough of a wow factor, and as I said earlier, market penetration has to be addressed.

But say you're the Big 12, and you want to go to an area that is growing, and teams that are growing.  You could make a big case that the Big 12 address the Florida schools. That would give the conference a leg in a state that knows SEC and ACC schools, a destination that every recruit would like to visit. I'm not saying that's going to happen. I'm saying that if a conference is buildng for the future, you might keep it in mind.

Personally, I'd be very interested in Houston. A huge market, a successful team, everything you want. But you know something? Almost every other school on the 12-university list has some problems. Even BYU brings its anti-gay reputation with them.

Besides Houston, I don't think the Big 12 has a slam dunk. That's why there are so many teams in the running.

If USF doesn't get in? Well, it can get better and better in the American Conference. I don't know what you mean by "really big time." USF is a long way from being Alabama or Ohio State or Notre Dame. But it can be a top 25 team in the American. It can go to bowl games.

I know the Power 5 isn't likely to have more openings for a while. But I don't think USF's program rests on being invited. Memphis certainly has built a basketball program without being in a major conference.

Look, USF is 2-0, and is favored to beat a Big 10 team to go 3-0. They play FSU at home. Isn't that big-time enough?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller September 17, 2016 at 9:16 am

Well I’m excited about that game and have even bought tickets. But if USF gets blown out they will go back to being a small-time team that plays in a nothing conference. They have to build a winning tradition, dominate their conference, win some games against opponents like FSU to generate some national interest in the program. I think the current coach is doing a nice job to bring them back from horrible but it will take time to get where they need to be. They have to get to the level of being a legitimate option for the Big 12 on merit not by begging which is what they seem to be doing now. I hope for success for their program but they have a really long road ahead of them. What makes it worse is their basketball program is at rock bottom.


Rick Martin September 17, 2016 at 8:32 am

Just a side note to my gripe. The USF -Syracuse game isn’t televised today but I can listen on radio.


Gary Shelton September 17, 2016 at 9:14 am

No one locally is in charge of USF being on TV. Tha’s in the contracts.


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