Ask Gary: How deep can the Lightning go?

by Gary Shelton on April 9, 2016 · 3 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

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Saturday, 6 a.m.

Well, the Lightning have secured 2nd place in the Atlantic Division and home ice for the first round. How far do you expect them to go in the playoffs? And if they live up (or down) to your expectations, how would you grade their season?

Cecil DeBald

I wrote yesterday that the role of the underdog had returned to the Lightning. Nationally, I don't think very many people will expect the Lightning to last a round. It wouldn't surprise me, though.

There is something in sports to a team responding to the loss of a star. I remember when Dominique Wilkins left Georgia's basketball team; the next year, they were better. Same with Tennessee when they lost Peyton Manning.

Sometimes, with stars, a team gets out of balance. It looks to the stars in moments of trouble.

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There are still possibilities with this team. Ben Bishop can allow a team to steal a round. Maybe, just maybe, he can keep the team alive until Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman are healthy again. Scoring hasn't been this team's strength all season. They have 43 fewer goals than a year ago.

But if the Triplets get going again, and if Victor Kucherov and Alex Killorn can sneak a goal in, then the first round is winnable. There is still a lot of talent on this team.

Don't forget, though, the Lightning barely beat Detroit in the first round last year. Nothing is guaranteed. But I wouldn't surrender yet if I were you.

I'd say two rounds, and that may be stretching it. That should give the team a B-B+ for the year. If you consider the injuries, I'd say it's a B for two rounds and an A for three. What do you think?

Why the dearth of coverage of the LPGA? They have a young superstar in Lydia Ko who is at this point more dominant than Spieth in the PGA and just as nice and well-spoken. They play great golf at beautiful courses, but you can't even find mention of them in the sports pages, the sports websites. I've followed them for years, and coverage has fallen off - is it the Asian success that has put off American sportswriters and editors? There was certainly more coverage when Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb, Laura Davies were dominate.

Cecil DeBald

Is there less coverage than there used to be?  It's hard to see why. You're right about Ko, the fabulous golfer from New Zealand. She carries herself well. And Spieth, to give him credit, has been humble when speaking about her.

I can understand where newspapers are falling off in their coverage. There just isn't much space or manpower anymore. But why aren't there internet sites to make up the difference?

Seems to me there is plenty of internet coverage. Maybe it's that the season is young. Maybe it's that the women don't have the iconic tournaments, or courses, of the men. But I'd watch.

I read that J.J. Watt said he won't be playing football too much longer. Another player retired after a 2nd concussion - is this a trend? Players retiring young to protect their future health? And if it grows (after all, how many millions does a person really need?) what will be the impact on the NFL - if, say, the average career for top players is only 4-5 years?

Cecil DeBald

Whether the league likes it or not, it is a trend. And it doesn't speak well of the sport. Players are starting to respect their bodies a lot more.

These days, a player can make so much money so fast, the question becomes: Why do I put my body through this? There have always been some players who got out early: Jim Brown and Barry Sanders, for instance.

I read a statistic that, last year, 19 players retired at 30 years or younger. Four years earlier, that number was five. What does that tell you?

I don't know what the NFL owners really think of the link between concussions and football. But I've talked to enough old-timers who have suffered memory loss to have a conclusion. Of course there is a link. And it has the attention of a lot of players.

There are still a lot of athletes who have trouble walking away. It's an addictive sport, and when you're done, you're done. Your life will never be the same. But if I'm a player, I can't help notice all the limping former stars around me.

Masters Week Question for you: Do you think PGA golf is in good hands (Spieth, McIlroy, Day, Watson, et al.)  now that Tiger Woods seems to be fading away?

Rick Martin

Absolutely, Rick. I think it's deeper, and better, than it has been in years. Don't forget, for most of Tiger's dominance, we were lamenting that there weren't enough stars. Now, there seem to be plenty. They're young, they're talented, they're charismatic.

That's the thing that was so attractive about golf during the time of Jack Nicklaus. Yeah, Nicklaus was the best, but there were Watson and Player and Trevino and Palmer. That's always been the impressive thing about Jack. He also has 19 second places and nine thirds in majors. That's 46 majors where he finished in the top three. Who can stand up to that?

We'll see how the new kids shake out. But when you compare golf with other sports, it's iN fine shape.

Do you think Tiger Woods will ever play in another Majors tournament?

Scott Myers

Yes, I do. I don't think he'll win one, but I think he'll play.

There are circumstances that will help him. After all, he has a lifetime extension in Augusta, and the Masters is the first Major of the year. So I think he'll get his health together enough to last until March. And every stroke he hits, the cameras will be all over him. Of course.

Augusta National has always been good to his game, however. I'll bet if takes care of his body, and he gets hot, and all the breaks go his way, he can finish 32nd there. Maybe 33rd.

This year, finally, the belly putter is banned on the PGA tour. Ernie Els couldn't putt without it. He took 6 putts yesterday on one green at the Masters yesterday with a conventional flat stick. I also noticed that another successful belly putter user, Adam Scott, had a round of 4-over without it. This guy is almost always under par with the belly putter. I say it's about time and good riddance. Golfers this good shouldn't need any extra help.

Howard Powders

The worst thing about the belly putter is how silly it looks. It's like winning the Tour de France with training wheels. Like winning in Olympic swimming while wearing water wings.

Here you have the finest golfers in the world, and have to use this gizmo to hit it four feet. Really?

I agree with you. It does me no good to watch great athletes use belly putters. Especially when I'm trying to argue that these are among the greatest athletes on the planet.

Who is more likely to be in Tampa Bay next year; Stamkos or Drouin?
Jim Willson
Easy. It's Jonathan Drouin. As long as general manager Steve Yzerman continues to ask for  a high price in return, odds are that he'll be here.
But have  you considered this: What are the odds that both of them are here? If the team spends the money to sign Steven Stamkos, it's need of a talented young guy to help take his place goes down. But if Stamkos walks, the team is going to need young talent to help fill the void.
I wrote this, and I believe it. Drouin's success on Thursday night showed that he handled his holdout all wrong. You never hold out unless you have leverage, and he had none. He had to surrender and come crawling back, which made much of the season a waste.
But what the kid really wanted was a role on this roster. He never really had one early in the season. Now he does. And you can argue that no team needs him worse than this one.
Who do you consider the better team: the '95 Chicago Bulls or the current Warriors?
Jim Willson
Look, I don't want to come across as a grumpy old guy saying that things were better in my day. I think the Warriors are terrific.
But the Bulls were better. And movies. And music.
I'm kidding, mostly. Still, I've got to go with the Bulls, who had three Hall of Famers on their roster.
I see where Scottie Pippen says the Bulls would win in a sweep, and Charlies Barkley says the Warriors would win two. I think it would be closer than that. But I think the Bulls would win.
Who would you say is the most popular sports figure  of all time in Tampa Bay?

Jim Willson

Interesting question.

I'm going to go with Derrick Brooks. I would say Lee Roy Selmon, but Brooks won bigger, and he was greater for a longer period of time.

Mike Alstott was very popular, especially for a back who never had a 1,000-yard season. Marty St. Louis was beloved before he wanted out, which some will never forgive him for. Ronde Barber made the biggest play this town has seen. David Price was huge.

So how do you decide. Popularity times accomplishment times leadership times production? Something like that.

I love Warrick Dunn. I'm a huge Doug Williams guy. I even got along with Warren Sapp, and not everyone can say that.

At the end of the day, and I thought about this a lot, I have to go with Brooks.

Whats up with no Miami vs Tampa Bay game this preseason? Is it the end of a contract? Was there a fallout? Or did the teams  just want a change?

Nick Houllis

If there was a fallout, I haven't heard about it.

My suspicions are that both teams have new coaches, and they probably ran in different circles. And remember this: The Bucs had to be on the road the first two weeks because of stadium construction. So the dates were limited by circumstances.

Maybe Miami was afraid of what Mika Grimes would tweet about the game. Especially if Ryan Tannehill played.

Seriously, they'll play again. The travel advantages are too great not to play.




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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Rick April 9, 2016 at 5:52 pm

Followed the LPGA during Annika days. Went to several events both here in the US and in Europe. Other than Michelle Wie, we have no good American players anymore. The leaderboards are of women/teens whose names I can’t pronounce nor understand when they’re interviewed. There’s no reason for today’s sports page to promote a sport where American women no longer have a significant role. Just my opinion.


Cecil DeBald April 9, 2016 at 1:37 pm

I agree with your assessment of the Lightning, B+ for making the 2nd round, an A for the 3rd. Been an up and down season. Regarding the LPGA, there are of course web sites like the LPGA site, the Golf Channel that broadcasts them, but I browse the mainstream sports sites and rarely see anything, even when last week’s major was in progress or done. Just a shame, they deserve mainstream sports coverage. Sports figure all-time? That’s a long time, I’d give my vote to Al Lopez.



Gary Shelton April 9, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Al’s a good choice. I tend to lean toward athletes more than managers, though. And even though Al played for 19 years, I still think of him as a manager. But he was a kind man.


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