(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.
All year long we have been hearing about how the Lightning players are not focused or uninspired or not ready to play after way too many games that usually results in a loss. Last Thursday’s game was the last in a long line of such games. Victor Hedman even apologized to the fans for such a poor performance by the team even though they were fortunate to win that game. Doesn’t this reflect poorly on the coaching staff and Jon Cooper in particular? Yzerman seems committed to bringing Cooper back but if the players are going to continue to play uninspired hockey on a frequent basis isn’t it time to think about making a coaching change?
Larry, I think the task of the front office is to constantly evaluate all aspects of the team. Jon Cooper's performance is no different than, say, Tyler Johnson's. If you look at Yzerman's history, he pulled the plug awfully quick on Guy Boucher.
That said, I think that motivating a millionaire hockey player is only a small part of a coach's job. If the players aren't motivated, it says something terrible about them. It's the job of a pro player to get himself ready to play.
Content beyond this point is for members only.
Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the GarySheltonSports.com blog (its at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!
Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on GarySheltonSports.com.
A player blaming the team effort is basically a hockey function. I don't think I've ever seen a pro football player say it, or a baseball player. They might say off-handedly "we have to start better," but the beauty of hockey is that it's such an effort game.
It's easy to blame effort, frankly, when you aren't good enough. That's happened some, too. A player isn't going to admit it, though, and so he he blames a bad start.
Frankly, the Lightning is giving too many minutes to too many guys who should be in the minor leagues. There has been too much of a shuttle between Syracuse and Tampa Bay.
Personally, I wouldn't fire Cooper. Who would you hire who is better? You're talking about a coach that made the final two and the final four the last two years.
Steve Yzerman has said that he doesn't think this disappointment is at the feet of Jon Cooper. He'll certainly get another year. Remember, though, the basic things wrong with this team have been Steven Stamkos' injury and faulty goaltending. Are you going to blame Cooper for either situation?
I always liked to be sure before I called for a coach's job. I'm not ready with the Lightning.
I have seen multiple out-of-town sports writers refer to Chris Archer as the ace of the Rays' pitching staff. In my opinion, if Archer is the ace, then the pitching staff is over-touted. Who do you think is the ace of the staff?
I don't think the Rays' have an ace. Maybe an eight of hearts. Maybe a five of clubs.
Who would you say is the ace? Chris Archer, who lost 19 games last year? Alex Cobb, who is coming off an injury? Jake Odorizzi, who won 10? Blake Snell, who won six?
I see potential, and in the case of Archer, I see stuff. But I don't think any pitcher on this staff is anywhere close to an ace. Put it this way: Say the Rays get off to a 20-20 start. Who do you trust to pitch the next night? Anyone?
Those who watch the Rays nightly know this. I suspect you do, too. An out of towner can fall in love with Archer's slider, for instance. But night-in, night-out, he's short of what I would call an ace.
What is wrong with the Men's USF Basketball program?
Better question: What's right with it? The Bulls haven't coached well enough, haven't recruited well enough and seem to have established residence in the bottom of the league. They lose to a lot of teams who won't make the tournament, either.
If I were the a.d., I'd be very, very disappointed that USF hasn't gained an inch in the standings. Every year, there are a lot of programs you've never heard of make the tournament, and every year, it's not USF.
I think the program needs a young, energetic coach who can recruit his posterior off. They need a difference-maker who can find difference-makers on the court. There has been too much of a shuttle service, this player in, that player out.
It isn't that hard. Sixty-eight teams that make the tournament. A program ought to make it every few years if it tries at all.
If you ran the Bucs and were going to make one big free agent signing, who would you choose? Adrian Peterson, Calais Campbell, Brandon Marshall or somebody else?
Jim, the problem with free agency is that it comes before the NFL draft. If the Bucs could solve their running back problem with a draft pick, you wouldn't need a free agent.
I wouldn't take Peterson. Too old, too limited (lousy third-down back). I would check out Campbell, but with Ayers and Spence, do you need to spend as much as Campbell would want. Marshall's days of underachieving would bother me.
Looking at this team, I'd want a wide receiver. Alshon Jeffery or DeSean Jackson, maybe. And I like Tony Jefferson of the Cardinals as a safety. I think that's a pretty safe choice.
A sleeper? How about Latavius Murray of the Raiders? Remember, running back is a young man's game. It's not for guys who are too rich (Peterson), too fat (Eddie Lacy) or too beaten up (Jamal Charles).
How good do you think the Lightning are after all the trades?
Not as good as they were, not yet. They gave up grit (Brian Boyle), leadership (Valtteri Filppula) and goaltending (Ben Bishop). That has to catch up with them somewhere along the line.
Still, I think the Bolts are better than they've shown this year. They still have Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin and Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn.
If Stanley Cup contenders are grade A teams, and solid playoff teams are B, then I'd give the Bolts about a C-minus. It's going to be tough for Yzerman to rebuild this roster, though. He's close to the salary cap.
But Yzerman has stripped and rebuilt before. At this point, you have to trust someone. Who better than Yzerman?