Ask Gary: Recent Bolts’ play raises concerns

by Gary Shelton on February 10, 2018 · 2 comments

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

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 Lighting had such a hot start that everyone forgot about the question marks regarding the defense at the beginning of the season. However, the team’s recent play has shown there are issues which need to be addressed. How important do you think it is for Yzerman to make a trade deadline deal to bolster the defense in order for the Lightning to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs?

Larry Beller

I've been convinced of the importance of bringing in a trade deadline defenseman since Jay Feaster did it with Darryl Sydor back in 2004. I think reinforcements but be nice.

Alas, the Bolts haven't really done business that way in recent seasons, have they?

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Still, it would be a good idea. In the early days of the season, the defense was playing above its head. Now, the unit has some cracks. Could it be because Dan Girardi is 33, Braydon Coburn is 32 and Victor Hedman is still coming off an injury. Maybe. Certainly, there are times it looks like the Oklahoma land rush is riding toward Vasilevskiy.

We know this. Goals are harder to come by in the playoffs. A team needs a solid defense. I like the kids: Mikhail Sergachev, Jake Dotchin and Slater Koekkoek, but they're still growing. Another elite defenseman would help.

With Josh McDaniels doing an end-around on the Indianapolis Colts and deciding to stay with New England, does this make him Bill Belichick's heir apparent, and if so when do you think that will happen?

Peter Kerasotis

(My buddy Peter is back with us this week. That's a treat for me. Over the years, Peter and I have shared press box space, cut each other music CDs and shared a few meals. Be sure to order his new book: Alou: My Baseball Journey.

McDaniels is certainly in the on-deck circle. Evidently, Bill Belichick told him if he'd stay, he'd counsel him on different aspects of running an organization. What better mentor could a coach have?

I know McDaniels has received some criticism, but I think waiting was a good deal for him. After failing in Denver, he's going to get one more shot. He might as well do it with the Patriots.

The thing that would concern me, if I was advising McDaniels, is this. When Belichick walks away, Tom Brady probably will go out the door with him. I'm sure Vince Lombardi didn't mean to leave the Packers bankrupt, but he did. But New England is always going to have solid ownership.

I know this: If I was another NFL coach, I wouldn't fear McDaniels the way I do Belichick,

Are the Patriots once again the villains, this time for turning Josh McDaniels against taking the Colts head coaching position?

Larry Beller

I know Patriot nation is convinced that everyone hates them, and in turn, they hate everyone back. Do you check the comments section online? If anyone is talking about a squabble with one of their players, it takes a Pats fan about four seconds to turn that into a rant defending the Patriots against their transgressions.

So, sure, some people might hold McDaniel's decision against the Patriots. But how can you blame a team for trying to hold onto its strengths? The Bucs did it last year when they rewarded Mike Smith to the point some teams might have turned away from him.

I think it would be a bigger deal, but frankly, who cares about the Colts these days? I'm not sure I'm going to line up to work for Jim Irsay, either.

My advice? There are a lot more reasons to get upset at the Patriots than an assistant coach who would rather be an assistant than a head coach.

The Glaciers (very cold people) have raised Bucs' ticket prices for the 3rd year in a row.  How can they justify this for a team who has the 2nd longest playoff drought in the NFL – only Cleveland’s is longer?

Scott Myers

The sad part of this is that they don't have to justify it. They have a toy, and if you want to play, you pay or watch it on TV. Fortunately, the blackouts have died (I never thought that would happen).

I once suggested a nice raise for a Super Bowl winner and a meager raise for playoff teams, and nothing (or a cut) if you don't make the playoffs. Why be rewarded for not being smart enough to negotiate the standings? Surprise: No one listened.

Remember, this comes at a time the Bucs are also telling ticket holders they can't resell tickets they've purchased. Some days, it almost feels as if the Glazers don't want fans. They certainly do enough to drive them away. Do you suppose that when they do get around to wanting a new stadium, the attendance will be thrown Tampa's face?

It's interesting you bring up Cleveland. If you were going to pick an NFC equivalent, would it be the Bucs? Be careful before you make too many jokes about the Browns, because we're only one shade lighter. We have that Super Bowl, way back when dinosaurs were puppies, but there are cobwebs on the trophy case. This dry spell is starting to equal the team's long dry spell before Dungy.

Do you think Tiger Woods will opt into Valspar? I always thought the narrow fairways and trees at Innisbrook weren’t conducive to low scoring for him, but it sure would be a boost to the tourney. Your thoughts?

Cecil DeBald

I wouldn't bet on it. A long time ago, when Tiger was still young and bulletproof, he played here in a J.C. Penney event, and the fans went nuts. They jostled him and shook him, as if he were a Beatle. He was visibly shaken, and he retreated to the putting green for almost an hour.

I was writing about Woods that day, so I followed. I was assured that once he settled down, he'd talk to me. He didn't. Two guys were waiting for him by the putting green: me and a guy who had done a wonderful job painting his likeness onto a golf ball. He told me he hoped that Tiger would give him his hat in return.

When he was finally done, he stalked past me without a word. He took the golf ball and kept walking. The guy asked for his hat. No, Tiger said, I need my hat. Now, how many hats do you think Nike could have come up with for Tiger. It was rude and it was dismissive.

In all the years since, Tiger has never come back to Tampa Bay. I can't help but wonder if he remembers being jostled.

But you're right. These days, the Velspar would be a perfect tournament for Woods, narrow fairways and all. It would give him some competition, but certainly not as much as major or a near-major. He'd have a great shot at a top 10 finish or better, which would make the tournament matter. It would be good for Tiger and good for the tournament.

But, no, I don't think he's coming back. A shame. We have a Perkins' restaurant with waitresses, too.

So the Eagles were worse than the Bucs in 2016, and now they’re world champs with Nick Foles, who in December 2017 had less credentials than Ryan Fitzpatrick. I think the Eagles are the most unlikely Super Bowl winners since maybe New England in 2001. The Eagles are like the Bucs, but you know, good. What is in GM Howie Roseman’s coffee that we should ship down to Jason Licht?

Carlos  Ubinas

On Nov. 22 of 2015, the Bucs clobbered the Eagles 45-17. The Eagles finished that year at 7-9; the Bucs were 6-10.

That seems like 50 years ago, doesn't it?

There are no secrets in the NFL. Roseman's plan was to make sure the Eagles were solid everywhere. He fixed the Eagles' running attack. He shored up the defense. They have a franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz, but they didn't have him for the post-season.

Last March, there were hints that the Bucs wanted Foles as their backup quarterback. But let's be honest. If he was in Tampa Bay, he would have started three games last year. That's all Fitzpatrick got. As good as Foles was in the post-season, the Bucs wouldn't have benched Jameis Winston for him.

If I was Licht, I'd look at the acquisitions Roseman made. The Eagles are solid across the board. The Bucs lack a running game, a pass rush and coverage people. That's how one franchise passed another. With smarts.

The Rays have, or will, announce that Ybor City is their preferred new home. Given the political situation, the financing, and the options outside the Tampa Bay area, what odds do you give it that the Rays will be playing there in, say, the 2021 season?

Cecil DeBald

I think 2021 isn't that far away. If the Rays stay, or if they move, I think they'll still be in the Trop by 2021. But the essence of your question is deeper than a precise date, isn't it?

I don't trust the political situation. I think I've told you before about the Bucs' sale when every candidate -- every one, from George Steinbrenner to Tommy Shannon to Socrates Babacus -- talked about needing a new football stadium. When the Glazers bought the team, I walked out with a Hillsborough County commissioner who turned to me and said "well, maybe we don't have to build a stadium after all." I was incredulous. That's all anyone had talked about for months. And sure enough, shovels soon went into the ground for Raymond James. The politicians thought they had the advantage, and they did not.

So I wonder about politicians thinking they will call the tune this time, too, and baseball officials thinking they do. I can see a situation where a local politico starts pressuring the team for more money, or the team starts pressuring for a cut of parking.

Building stadiums is hard. I was in Miami when Joe Robbie Stadium was built, and I can remember that every side road because a major issue. I thought the silliest thing ever written was by an old Tampa Tribune columnist, who spent most of his column talking about why the Rays needed to be on that side of the bay, and then summed up by saying "but we won't pay the stadium." Well, why in the dickens would the Rays move to Tampa otherwise?

I love baseball, and I've gotten enjoyment from the Rays. But right now, I'd make Montreal a slight favorite to get the team longterm. The financing isn't going to be easy, and the political situation will be a snarl. I know some high-minded people oppose publicly financed stadiums, and I respect that. But once it goes, baseball isn't coming back. Ever.

The Winter Olympics aren’t as popular as the summer games it seems to me, but there are great athletes and great competition. Of all the winter events, which one or two are you most looking forward to watching? Does the USA have any “locks” for gold? – or locks for a podium place?

Cecil DeBald

Cecil, it's always hard for me to predict things, especially an Olympics where the competitors change all the time, particularly the winters where I don't exactly follow the halfpipe very closely.

From what I've read, Lindsey Vonn in the downhill is a huge favorite. I don't know if that makes her a lock or not. All she has to do, however, is go as fast as she threw Tiger away.

David Wise is good in the men's halfpipe, and Jamie Anderson in the Slopestyle. Nathan Chen should win a medal in men's skating.

But CNN predicts the U.S. will win only 10 golds this go-round. I don't know if we have a Dan Jansen or a Brian Boitano or a Michelle Kwan. Those guys didn't win all of the time, but going in, you figured they would be close.

I'll be honest. When I covered the games, I would go to an Olympic summit, and I would get to know the athletes. I'm more blind this time. But part of the joy of the Olympics is seeing new faces revealed in front of you. I'm looking forward to that.

What do I want to see? I have become a fan, of all things, of speed skating. Snowboarding is fun. And figure skating. I’ll watch Vonn.

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