Ask Gary: Should Bolts be sitting Vasilevskiy more?

by Gary Shelton on March 24, 2018 · 6 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Rays

How can Vasilevskiy rest and still stay sharp?CARMEN MANDATO

How can Vasilevskiy rest and still stay sharp?CARMEN MANDATO

Each week, the readers take over GarySheltonsports.com 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 GarySheltonsports@gmail.com).

Saturday, 4 a.m.

Do you think at this point in the season the Lightning should be giving Vasilevskiy more time off (which they are just starting to do) and reduce Hedman’s heavy workload of playing time to avoid having those guys worn down before the playoffs even begin, even if it costs them first place in the regular season?

Larry Beller

Larry, the Lightning has eased off the gas some with Vasilevskiy. And it's about time. He's talking about being physically and mentally tired, which may come back to haunt the Bolts in the post-season.

In sports, however, the difficulty is in finding the time to rest regulars vs. keeping them sharp. Remember some of Tony Dungy's excellent Colts' teams. They'd be far out in front of the NFL, and they'd rest starters, and they wouldn't be sharp when they came back.

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Pro sports is a game of the mental and the physical, and it's hard to project which players are which. I think the Colts would have been better off playing their starters. Maybe they wouldn't have.

So the key to Vasilevskiy is to find the right balance. Rest him, but play him enough to keep him sharp. He'll fight you, because he wants to play. As this point, though, today's game isn't as important as tomorrow's.

Me? I'd rest Vasilevskiy for the next 3-4 games, then let him play 3-4 to tune up for the post-season.

Or how about this? How about letting Vasilevskiy play a few first periods and then take the rest of the night off? Hey, it's worth thinking outside the box. Or, in this case, outside the net.

(Amended to answer the question. Sorry): At this point, neither the best-record nor the division title would matter as much to me as having all my weapons rested and ready for the post-season. No one remembers a little title. No one remembers an overall record. This season will be judged by how far the Bolts go in the post-season.

I don't even think that first-round matchups matter. The year the Bolts won the Cup, there were teams they needed to avoid. Boston had handled them. Ottawa was a beast. But the seedings took care of themselves.

Does Hedman have a muscle that bothers him? Is Kucherov weary? Does McDonagh need some time off? Then take care of it. The little trophies don't matter.

Miguel Cabrera, who will be 35 years old next month, will be paid $184 million over the next six MLB seasons.  How much of that money will he earn?

Scott Myers

Would you believe $4,811? More? Less?

Don't forget? Cabrera has two multi-option years at the end of those six for $30 million per season, so he could make as much as $248.000 (according to Spotrac). That's a lot for a team that isn't expected to contend for the post-season.

Now, you and I can quibble all day about what "earn" means. But I think we'd agree that it's less than a quarter-of-a-billion dollars (more or less). Heck, how good do you have to be to get at least $30 million a year for eight years?

Will Cabrera provide that many more wins? Will he draw that many more fans?

Sportsreference.com has his projection for 2018. He's supposed to hit .284, but with only 22 homers and 72 RBI. Last year, Cabrera hit .249 with 16 homers and 60 RBI in 130 games. I'd say the Tigers have some change coming. Think about that. For a pedestrian stat line, the Tigers could make you, me and 246 of our friends millionaires. Wow.

You're the champion of this kind of question, Scott. You have a knack for commenting on overblown salaries that gets to the heart of the issue.

Hey, we have both criticized the Rays for being cheap. But maybe there's a middle ground somewhere. You think?

Knowing you are a best buddy of Peyton Manning, he seems to have offers to do TNF with Fox, MNF with ESPN, or an NFL front office position. Eliminating compensation for a moment, what do you think he's best suited for - the TV booth or the front office (if either). If it's the booth, which network would you like to see him join?

Cecil DeBald

Ha. I have been around Peyton a lot, and I like him. He's bright, and he can be funny, and he's engaging. For those reasons, I think he'd be better in the booth than the front office. But John Lynch has shown us that the two jobs can be done capably by the same guy.

I don't know if you saw any of Manning's spots on Saturday Night Live. He was terrific. He'd be believable as an analyst.

But I think he could run a team, too, like John Elway has. I've always thought that overachievers made the best coaches. As a player, Manning was a studier, and he figured out not only what worked by why it worked. I think he'd be gifted. I'd certainly want my team to hire him.

To me, the major different is how committed a guy wants to be. If he wants a won-loss record, if that competitive fire is burning, then he should be a general manager. There's nothing like having your own team. But if he doesn't want to be that involved, if he wants to skirt around the edges of his sport, I'd suggest an analyst's job.

With who? I'd say ESPN, because the network screams sports (Fox is more about politics). But it's already been reported that Manning isn't interested in Monday Night Football. That seems to leave Fox.

I know this: Wherever he broadcasts, I'm tuning in.

How much has Jason Pierre-Paul's game changed since his hand injury?

Jim Willson

Some. But not as much as I would have thought when it happened.

Remember, defensive ends use their hands a lot. It had to have some affect, didn't it?

But Pierre-Paul had 15 1/2 sacks the last two years, far more than any defensive end of the Bucs had. He has enough left to help. He won't be the superstar he was the year he got 16 1/2 sacks, but he should be okay.

There is a theory in New York that he underachieved last. year. On a Giants team that lost most weeks, I guess a lot of players did. But the Giants thought it was time to go on without him. That in itself is enough to be scared of.

A couple of thinks work in Pierre-Paul's favor. One: he didn't take up the game until late, so his body hasn't had the wear and tear of most players. And he's a marvelous athlete with his history of doing backflips.

I hope a new workplace invigorates Pierre-Paul. I hope linemates like Gerald McCoy and Vinny Curry light a fire. This should be the best Bucs' defensive line in years. You just hope he is fresh out of the can.

Superstars are great! If you put a superstar at any position you wanted, in which sport would he or she have the most direct impact on wins - MLB, NFL, or NHL? Would an NHL superstar goalie have a bigger impact on wins than an MLB superstar pitcher or NFL superstar quarterback or maybe an MLB hitter, an NHL center, a NFL Defensive End?

Cecil DeBald

You've got the makings of a pretty good debate there, Cecil. I can see a bunch of us yelling our opinions until the wee hours.

My first reaction is the NBA, where we've seen what Kareem Abdul-Jabbar meant to the winning percentage, or LeBron James. Alas, that wasn't one of your choices, was it?

A pitcher can perk his team up only every five days, and so many things are involved in winning that it's tough to forecast.

A quarterback makes a big difference, because he can make so many players around him better. With a great quarterback, the line usually plays better, and the receivers are more dangerous. But football is a two-way sport. A quarterback does nothing for the defense.

I guess I'd go with a truly great goaltender. Post-season hockey is so much about the guy in the net if he's a Marty Brodeur. But a lot of great goalies have never won anything.

An everyday player in baseball? Maybe, but remember, there is limited substitution in baseball. You can't feed a guy the way you can a point guard or a running back. A defensive end can be controlled with blocking schemes. The best forwards in hockey go a lot of games between goals, although they are indeed two-way players, which is rare in today's sports.
In the end, I think it's a personal choice. But I'd go with the hockey goalie. A lot of Cups have been won when a guy gets hot.
Okay, Gary. Feet to the fire time. Baseball is set to start. As you sit here today, give us your picks to win each division and wild card, who you think will emerge as AL and NL champs and, of course, your World Series winner.
Peter Kerasotis
Peter, in your days as a columnist, how much thought did you give to your annual predictions? Not much, I'd bet. So I kind of chuckled when I saw your question.
Okay, here's a hint. I do not see the Rays in the playoffs, nor do I see pigs flying.
AL East: Boston (which will crush fans in New York).
AL Central: Cleveland
AL West: Houston
Wild Cards: Yankees, Angels.
AL champion: New York.
NL East: Washington
NL Central: Chicago
NL West: Dodgers
Wild Cards: Cardinals, Diamondbacks
NL Champ: Chicago
World Series champ: Chicago
(Peter is a long-time Florida sports columnist, a buddy of mine, and the author of several books. His latest is Felipe Alou My Baseball Journey is scheduled to be released on April 1. He'd grin if you bought one.)

What grade would you give the Bucs free agency moves?

Jim Willson

The honest grade is incomplete, Jim, because we haven't seen how the new guys will fit in or how much of their hunger they will retain. That's why there are a lot of busts. At one point, we thought Michael Johnson was going to be the next Simeon Rice and that Anthony Collins was going to be solid. It didn't work out that way.

If you pushed me today, I'd give the Bucs' class a solid B. That's not bad considering the slow start the team got off to.

But the Bucs lacked that super signing that makes the world pay attention. If they had had signed Tyrann Mathieu or Richard Sherman, real grabber stuff, then I'd be tempted to push the grade up a bit. If they had needs for a quarterback or a dynamic receiver, I'd push it up more. But those positions didn't match their needs.

I like the trade for Jason Pierre-Paul more than I don't like it. I loved Vinny Curry's signing. But the best signing of all might be center Ryan Jensen. It was certainly better to sign kicker Chandler Catanzaro than to draft one in the second round.

I know this: If these moves don't work out, the Bucs have no chance next season, and it will end with blood on the walls. But I'm interested to see. You?

Speaking of superstars, my instinct is if you put one superstar on an average team in any position he might make everyone somewhat better - attitude, enthusiasm, etc., but the net gain in wins directly from a single superstar's performance on the field/ice in a team sport isn't all that great. Agree or not?

Cecil DeBald

Well, I agree to a large degree. It's hard for one guy to be a difference-maker in a team sport. I've seen a lot of teams win. There are only a few that looked like one guy made the difference. (The old Giants with Lawrence Taylor, the Broncos with John Elway), etc.

The word that throws me a bit, Cecil, is the word "average." So our mystery superstar wouldn't be going to a bad team but one that was run of the mill? In that case, I could see the superstar in the right position  fueling his team to finish one tier higher than it ordinarily would have. From eight wins to 10, something like that, in the NFL.

I think Drew Brees has made the Saints a lot better. I thought Dan Marino made the Dolphins a lot better.  Both of their teams were pretty average, but both had seasons that were better than that.

 

 

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller March 25, 2018 at 8:28 am

I completely agree with your amended comments in that the league title means so little and the Stanley Cup playoffs mean everything. That’s why I”m puzzled that Cooper insists on playing Vasy so much. He had him playing both road games this week.

In order for the Lightning to win it all in the playoffs the goalie needs to be spectacular, not just good. Vasy won’t be all that unless he is rested and fully recharged. If the Lightning get bounced early in the playoffs then we can look back and say Cooper blew it by not resting guys, especially the goalie, when he had the chance.

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Gary Shelton March 25, 2018 at 10:31 am

That’s a valid concern. I don’t think Vasi has been as sharp lately, and you have to wonder about a first-year starter playing so much.

Put it this way: If the Bolts trip early in the playoffs, aren’t you going to wonder if a tired goalie was part of the problem? This is opening the door to second guessing

And I’m sorry another reader had to remind me of your point.

Reply

Cecil DeBald March 24, 2018 at 5:13 pm

I do have another follow-up to your follow-up…! Doesn’t the conference championship give the winner home ice advantage for as long as they are around until the Cup final? I don’t know the Lightning record home and away off-hand, but most teams seem to do better on their home field/ice.

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Gary Shelton March 24, 2018 at 11:02 pm

Actually, the Bolts have one of the best home records in the NHL. They’ve lost only eight times at home. Minnesota has just six home losses to lead the league. Boston and Winnipeg each have seven. Toronto also has eight. So it’s not the league’s best, but it’s pretty good.

The thing is, you expect a pretty good team to be almost perfect at home. So a home loss feels heavier, you know?

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Cecil DeBald March 24, 2018 at 8:40 am

I think the big question about Vas is would you rest him if it cost you the conference title? I’m sure they would rest him if they had that secure, which may not happen until the end of the season if at all. I met Payton once at UT – he’s all you said he is, and I hope he’s in the booth myself. I agree with you on the NHL goalie, and left out the NBA on purpose, I do think a superstar there can have the biggest direct impact on team wins – NHL goalie next. As non-entities like me don’t have to be accountable for their predictions, Rays all the way!

Thanks for your responses, Gary.

Cecil

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Gary Shelton March 24, 2018 at 11:18 am

The conference title wouldn’t matter to me as much as getting Vasilevskiy his proper rest. If I didn’t answer the question, well, oops. You guys know I’m scattered.

I did go back and update my answer. Thanks, Cecil. I got off track.

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