Do you believe Brady and the Bucs are serious?

by Gary Shelton on February 29, 2020

in general

Could Brady move to the South?./JEFFREY S. KING

SATURDAY, 4 a.m.

The notion is a sexy one, I admit. The best-ever quarterback and the worst-ever franchise, linked on the gossip pages. How can you not find a headline in that?

But I don't buy it for a second.

No matter what you read, and where, Tom Brady is not coming to the Tampa Bay Bucs. The whole idea is a giggle and a snort.

Oh, elsewhere, you can find more headlines linking the two than Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston, the sequel. Why, Tom Brady might leave the Patriots! Why, the Bucs aren't happy with their quarterback! What more do you need?



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Well, logic might be a consideration.

Look, I understand the banter from the Bucs' point of view. Jameis Winston is the league's most polarizing quarterback, a 5,000-yard,30-touchdown who also seems to have an opposing cornerback in his progressions. You can talk about his interceptions, and you can talk about his fumbles, and you can talk about his winning percentage (40 percent).

So it's understandable if the Bucs want to look in a different direction.

But New England?

Really?

Well, according to Pro Football Talk, the Bucs are fifth on the list of favorites to land Brady. Bleacher Report ranks them third.

Do you buy it? Does it pass the smell test? Can you really envision it happening?

Personally, I don't see it. Not because of the Bucs, who could talk themselves into a win-now, worry-about-2022-later type of thinking. But because of Brady.

Think about it. Why would the quarterback who is primarily known for winning Super Bowls go to a franchise that hasn't come close since 2003, when Brady was a spry 26? Aren't there any teams closer?

Here's a number you can chew on. Since 2003, the Patriots have had 17 straight seasons of double-digit wins and played in seven of Brady's eight Super Bowls. The Bucs have finished fourth 10 times.

Oh, we both know how this game works. No one thinks about Seattle, because Seattle has Russell Wilson. No one thinks about Green Bay, because Green Bay has Aaron Rodgers. Kansas City has Patrick Mahomes. Dallas has Dak Prescott. Houston has Deshaun Watson. And on and on. There are only a few franchises that will pay big bucks for a guy with a to more yesterdays than tomorrows.

There is also a logic to Brady leaving New England. A lot of great players have and still have had tread on the tires. Richard Seymour. Wes Welker. Logan Mankins. Chandler Ward.

But remember this: Robert Kraft is a huge Brady fan. He isn't going to let go of that. It isn't as if the Patriots have a great quarterback in the wings.

At this point in his career, Brady isn't just playing for money. He's playing for his legacy. He doesn't want to be another guy who couldn't win without Bill Belichick.

He wants to win. Now.

If you were him, would you bet on the Bucs to make it happen?

Bolts’ slide continues in 3rd period collapse

by Gary Shelton on February 28, 2020

in general

Point scored his 23rd goal./CARMEN MANDATO

Friday, 4 a.m.

For a long time, it looked as if the Lightning might never lose again.

Now, the question is if they will ever win.

Once again, the collapsible Tampa Bay Lightning took it on the chin Thursday night, losing their fourth straight game. This time it was a 5-2 decision against Chicago, as the Blackhawks scored five goals in less than 13 minutes of the third period.



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The Bolts took a 2-0 on Brayden Point's 23rd goal and Nikita Kucherov's 31st. But Chicago scored five goals on 10 shots to win going away.

In their last four games, all losses, the Lightning have given up 21 goals. They've given up 27 in their last six.

"Reset -- that’s what we have to do," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "Maybe after our long winning streak, we took a breath and were looking at playoffs or something down the road., although we're not close to clinching. There's a lot of runway left, Some details in our game are slipping."

Goaltender Curtis McElhinney shut out the Blackhawks for two periods, but Chicago tied the game at 2-2 with a pair of goals in 26 seconds. Dominik Kubalik scored a hat trick in the final period.

“When it’s not going well, you can look at a lot of things," Cooper said. "It’s going south as a group. You’re not looking and saying it’s goaltending or its special teams or the penalty kill or our 5-on-5 play. It’s kind of a collaboration of it all. As a group, you're going to go through some ups and downs. We've had more ups than downs.Now it’s not quite working for us. I look at where we sit. I like where we’re  at. We just have to straighten out some things in our game and I’m confident we’ll be able to do that.

"The snowball got pushed off the hill and kept rolling and we couldn’t stop it. The alarming amount of goals we’re giving up now is not a recipe for winning hockey games."

Cooper did like the first two periods of play by the Lighting, however.

"I thought we had pretty good control of that game and then pucks started going in the net," Cooper said.  "The first couple we had pucks on our stick. We don't get clears.  The third one is on a deflection, The fourth one is on a power play and it’s 4-2. It overshadows a lot of good things we did for most of that game. You look up and goes from 2-0 to 5-2 and you're wondering what happened."

The Bolts try to stop their slide Saturday afternoon at Amalie Arena in a game against Calgary. The puck is scheduled to drop at 4 p.m.

Can Meadows repeat last season’s success?

by Gary Shelton on February 27, 2020

in general

Rays' Meadows attempts to repeat his numbers./STEVEN MUNCIE

Thursday, 4 a.m.

For a year, he was a star.

For a year, he was the finest offensive threat that the Tampa Bay Rays had.

Now, the question for Austin Meadows is basic: Can he do it again?

A year ago, Meadows wasn't just good. He was splendid. He hit .291. He had 33 homers. He drove in 89 runs. He made the All-Star Team. He became part of the shining example of how to make a trade (or, in the case of the Pittsburgh Pirates, how not to).



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And now, it is time for a sequel.

The Rays are depending on it.

Oh, I know what you're thinking. A player doesn't have statistics like Meadows had over 530 at-bats and have it turn out to be a fluke. Still, one-year wonders do exist in the major league baseball. Remember Mark Fidrych? Remember Joe Charboneau? Remember Chris Coghlan?

If you want to make an argument for Meadows, go back to last June, his worst month of the season? In June, Meadows hit just .206 with no home runs and six RBI. He struck out 33 times.

Still, he rebounded, and finished with a .378 average in September as the Rays drove for the playoffs. His nine home runs were his best month of the season. That rebound in itself should suggest that Meadows won't wither and fade.

Still, how good can he be?

I saw seven projections on Meadows (Composite, Rotochamp, Steamer, Zips, ATC, The Bat and 2019) for the coming season. Not one of them had him with as high an average, as many homers or as many RBI. Still, all of them had him with at least 25 homers, at least a .269 average and at least 80 RBI. I suspect the Rays would take that line right now.

As for Meadows? Hey, he's 24. I'm sure he's thinking about another All-Star game, and inflated statistics all around.

After all, no one thinks about going backward.

Bolts lose third straight as special teams struggle

by Gary Shelton on February 26, 2020

in general

Kucherov scored his 30th goal of the season./CHUCK MULLER

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

The new guys were supposed to be the cavalry. They were supposed to push the Tampa Bay Lightning over the top.

So far, however, it has been a bad chemistry experiment. And the reinforcements -- Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow and Zach Bogosian -- haven't tasted victory since joining the Bolts.

Tampa Bay lost its third straight game Tuesday night, falling 4-3 to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Lightning has given up 16 goals in the three losses -- all with Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal -- and 22 in its last five games.



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"We didn’t play poorly five on five," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "It was a total special teams game. When you play a hockey game and you lose  and all your players are plus and the other team's are minus, it is all special teams. Their odd man rushes were coming off our power play.  Their penalty kill out-chanced our power play and their power play scored (twice). That was the difference in the game."

The Bolts are four for their last 54 on their power play. They've given up five power play goals in the last three games.

"I think when you’re so good for so long, it opens eyes when you give up goals," Cooper said. "The reason we won so many games for so long was because our penalty kill was so good. It happens when you play 82. It’s not going to be a Picasso every night. "

Cooper admitted it would take the new guys a few games to fit in with the Lightning.

"It takes time so we can get our flow," Cooper said.

The Bolts have lost three straight for the first time all season. They get another chance Thursday night when they play against Chicago at Amalie Arena. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7 p.m.



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Kiffin fits in well in Bucs’ Ring of Honor

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Lightning streak ends with third period fail

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