Ask Gary: Kucherov has an outside shot at MVP

by Gary Shelton on April 1, 2017 · 2 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Lightning

Has anyone been better than Kucherov?/TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Has anyone been better than Kucherov?/TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

(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, 4 a.m.

The Lightning have been on an amazing run these past few weeks and Nikita Kucherov has carried the team during much of that stretch. Do you think he gets the MVP award if he stays hot these last few games and the Lightning manages to make the playoffs?

Larry Beller

Larry, I think he's in the conversation, and that in itself is a feat. Kucherov has gone from a very, very good player to a star. He's kept this Lightning team in the race, which is more than statistics. He's scored big goals all year.

He has 38 goals, which is enough. Seven skaters who have won the Hart have had less. When Martin St. Louis won it, he had 38 goals himself.

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Still, with the Lightning not being clearly in the playoffs, it's hard to envision Kucherov winning the big prize. I think a lot of people still think the Lightning -- for whatever reason -- underachieved this year. Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby seem to be at the top of most of the conversations you read about the Hart.

If I wanted to debate it, I could defend Kucherov well. He hasn't had nearly as much help as Crosby, for instance. But my gut feeling tells me that Kucherov will have to threaten 40 goals again to win it.

I know that there are many Chicago fans in the area, but I was surprised by just how much red there was at the Bolts/Blackhawks game considering that we are fighting for a playoff spot. Did that many Lightning fans sell their tickets or are all these announced sellouts not really sellouts?

Jim Willson

Jim, I was surprised, too. We might as well have been in Chicago. Now, I don't believe for a minute that a lot of Chicago fans came down for a late-season game in Florida.I think most of them were locals. I've always heard that a huge amount of sports fans relocated from Chicago; that's a good argument for it.

Still, wouldn't you think that most Lightning fans would want to hang onto their tickets if they cared enough to buy season-tickets to start with? I would. I'll be honest. I didn't pay much attention to ticket resales or Craig's List.

My guess -- and it's only a guess -- is that a lot of the fans split their loyalties between the Blackhawks and the Lightning, and for this game, the front-runner in them came out. A think a few were from Chicago; you can probably pay for a lot of your flight and a ticket for close to what you pay to see the Blackhawks play. And I think the rest were local fans who took advantage of a weeknight game and scalped the tickets.

In the end, the Lightning won. The last laugh.

Would you spend $33 million per year for 30 years to get a maximum return of $20 million per year?

The alleged reason for the need for a new stadium is so that the Rays bring in more revenue so that they can increase player payroll so that they can become competitive. Simple math — a $600 million stadium costs $33 million per year for 30 years at 3.5% interest. So why would anyone spend $33 million per year to increase revenues by the extremely optimistic figure of just $20 million per year?

Scott Myers

Scott, here's the problem I have with your math. No one is paying $33 million individually, and none of us are going to see $20 million in assets. I still haven't received a check for Raymond James. You?

Fans vote for new stadiums, largely, so they can hang onto what they perceive as a community asset. Now, that isn't true for everyone, which is why stadium referenda are so hard to pass. Remember all the riders the Bucs had to put into Raymond James?

No, if you were giving the money out of your pocket, and keeping the return, it wouldn't be good business.

Obviously, it depends on how a stadium is financed. For most of us, the cost isn't prohibitive. Again, that depends on your vote. You can oppose any stadium proposal that is in front of you. But I think you'd have to admit it isn't a dollars-and-cents issue. It's "do we want this sport or are we willing to live without it." Right?

Even though the Bolts are making an amazing and gritty run--let's not lose sight of why they are in this predicament. Yes, there were unfortunate injuries but it's mostly because, in the meat of the season, they played complacent, inconsistent hockey, much like they did last year. Some "experts" say that their speed style is no longer​ effective. Do you think they will retool and become more physical instead? And, related to this issue, do you think they will re-sign the speedy Tyler Johnson (who has trouble staying healthy anyway)?

Barry McDowell

I don't think speed ever goes out of style in any sport. It isn't the total answer -- a team needs some size and some feistiness -- but in 100 years, there will be speed teams, and they'll win. As a rule of thumb, I ignore "experts," especially when they're encased in quotation marks. But that's just me.

As far as last year, the Lightning made the conference finals. How bad can that be? No, it wasn't everything you wanted, but it's no reason to start over, either. I'm not even sure with the contracts they've given that it's possible.

What I do think is that the Bolts desperately need to augment the roster. They need more size, as I mentioned. They need fewer shifts going to AHL players. But you can do that without blowing things up. Whatever percentage you blame on complacency or unfocused goaltending, this team just wasn't good enough. Still, I'd wonder how good it could have been with another 40-goal scorer, with Ryan Callahan, with Tyler Johnson.

As for Tyler, I like him. But he's undersized, and I think he'll always battle injuries. I think he'll be exposed in the Las Vegas expansion draft, but I wonder if he'll be picked up. He is injury prone.

Barry, all of this is just my opinion. Yours may differ.

What level of Hockey Genius can be bestowed on our Bolts GM Yzerman if we make the playoffs or better yet make a big splash into another Stanley Cup run, despite the fury of high quality players traded at the deadline last month (including our starting goalie)? Do you think John Cooper's job would come under scrutiny if they didn't? I think that would be not just a crime but the biggest joke since Sarah Palin.

Bruce Brownlee

How about Hockey Genius, Third Class?

I think the Lightning's late-season run has salvaged the season for Yzerman, but I'm not sure I'd throw the word "genius" around. The best thing that Yzerman did was the constant tweak of the bottom of his roster. I'll be honest. I think the trades of Ben Bishop and the rest worked out terrifically. Andrei Vasilevskiy has responded, and the team hasn't taken a backward step.

No, I don't think Cooper's job in on the line -- nor should it be. He's one year removed from the Eastern Conference finals and two from the Stanley Cup finals. I simply don't see another coach who would be a better fit for this team. Maybe I'm wrong. What do you think?

I'm excited for the 2017 NFL schedule to be announced soon. Which Bucs games-opponents have the best chance for national primetime? My guess is 3, wouldn't surprise me if one of those is the opener with a rematch against the Falcons in their new digs. The others being a home game against the Panthers and finally a road game at the Packers.

The Bucs have only beaten the Jets once in 11 games and that was John McKay's infamous but otherwise meaningless final game in 1984. The Patriots are 6-2 against us but have won the last 3 contests 86-10 combined. Doubt the NFL will want to risk a prime time game with those two lopsided histories. Miami would be a possible thought  although it's a road game.

Bruce Brownlee

I can see a lot of games that I think would be worth a prime time slot for an up coming team with an impressive young quarterback. The Packers intrigues me.  The Falcons (again). The Saints.

Of course, and you know this, all prime time games aren't just about the best game. Thursday night games especially are designed with the idea of getting everyone a prime-time game. So you might get a game against the Bears, or the Jets, or the Bills.

The trouble with the Patriots is that the network would like them for 16 games

Still, if you're TV execs trying to plan a game, the Bucs suddenly have a lot to like. Winston. Evans. Jackson. Alexander. McCoy. I think three sounds about right to me.

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