Tom Brady, Officially Official.

Officially, official. Tuesday at noon, the Tampa Bay Bucs held a conference call press conference introducing Tom Brady as the Bucs new starting quarterback, along with head coach, Bruce Arians. The floor opened up to the press with much anticipation and eager questions.

Coach Arians started off stating his excitement for having Tom Brady come to Tampa Bay. Arians said that he’s not only happy to have Brady for his known skill set on the field, but because of what he does for his teammates off the field and the leader he is in the locker room. Later in the press conference coach Arians put some lingering pre-free agency questions to rest in regard to Winston’s considerable future with the Bucs or how considerable his future actually was. Arians said, “Brady was our number one priority in the free agency, he can do everything we want to do in our offense”.

Once Brady addressed the press, he had an overall motto for each question, “one day at a time”. Brady said that he is in a position he has not been in since he started his career in the NFL, having to learn new terminology. Brady continued on saying that he hopes his experience in the league and at quarterback will translate, so he can help this team win. As to the why Brady chose Tampa, he said that he respected the players and coaches’ obvious willingness for one another and to win. He has watched film on the Bucs when preparing to go against them for many seasons and has begun watching more film now. Brady said that the Bucs have a great offense for quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends. As to how he will contribute to this great offense, Brady said, “football is about getting the ball to the guy who can do something with it. I got to be able to deliver and learn these players’ body language”.

It’s clearly not an ideal to transition in a time where social distancing is in effect, so the curiosity rose as to how Brady was going to begin to get to know his new teammates and begin establishing chemistry and relationship with them. He said they’ll find ways to communicate and get to know each other and hopefully meet up. Talking with them will help him learn, especially because they’ve been playing in this system. Brady mentioned that his time and energy right now needs to be focused on getting up to speed. He will be playing in a new division and one known for its talented defense. All in all Brady left New England with much gratitude and is ready to focus forward on the new opportunity at hand. Brady closed saying he’s prepared to give all of his commitment to helping this team and is just excited to get started!

The excitement is mutual between Brady, the Bucs staff, and fans. It is undeniable the potential that lies ahead for this team with a quarterback like Tom Brady. We’ve watched his skill escalate when given weapons and Evans, Godwin, Brate, and Howard are just that. Not to mention the stellar defense the Bucs have managed to keep together re-signing top players of the 2019 season. The talent will officially be on both sides of the ball. All that is left to do now is execute.

With that said, Tom Brady…Welcome to Tampa Bay!

Will Tom Brady be the Super Bowl solution for the Bucs?

TB21 seasons into his career, Tom Brady ends one significant era to begin another… 6x time Super Bowl champion announced Tuesday evening that he will no longer be a part of the Patriots organization. Moments after the announcement, news circulated that Brady made a principle agreement with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for roughly $30M a year. Upon finalization, this could not only be a promising move for the Bucs, but for the Tampa Bay community. 35 minutes after the agreement was announced, ticket sales went up thanks to excited Bucs fans, leaving 972 people on the waiting list for 2020 season tickets.

Why are Bucs fans already so excited? Let’s strike a visual…Brady threw for 4057 yards and 24 touch downs in the 2019 season and that was somewhat under performing for the future hall of fame quarterback. Keep in mind Brady didn’t have many reliable weapons outside of Julian Edelman after the retirement of Rob Gronkowski and the trade of Danny Amendola. With that said, Tampa Bay closed the season ranked as the #3 offense with known weapons such as Mike Evans, Cameron Brate, and Chris Godwin, as well as, new weapons who stepped up in the 2019 season during unfortunate injury situations, Breshad Perriman, Tanner Hudson. We know how much Brady loves his tight ends, especially in the red zone, so imagine him having options like Cameron Brate, OJ Howard, Tanner Hudson, and potentially Jordan Leggett.

Coach Arians is known for being a quarterback coach and had some noticeable success with Winston in the 2019 season, so Arians and Brady should have a beneficial connection for the team. The next focus for the Bucs to really make this team stand out is for Tampa to get a big back for Brady to hand off to and a more reliable offensive line to protect the Bucs new QB. The offensive line will be even more crucial this season and with a quarterback like Tom Brady. Brady isn’t as fast out of the pocket. Not that we saw much movement out of Winston this season, but he’s still more notably mobile than Brady, but when it counts, we’ve seen Brady find some wheels, granted at 43 years old we don’t want to put him in continuous pressured situations.

The icing on the cake, the 2021 Super Bowl is in Tampa. Between turnovers and injuries the Bucs feel short of playoff, but the potential was there. If the players can maintain their health and with a competitive quarterback like Tom Brady who is no stranger to Super Bowls and Championships, the Bucs can have a strong shot at being Super Bowl contenders in their own city. All in all Tampa’s in for an exciting ride.

Bolts Make New Franchise History!

The Lightning make franchise history last night with their 11th straight win for an overtime victory against the Avalanche and what a game is was to watch! Both the Lightning and the Avalanche are known for having very skilled players. Nathan MacKinnon is amongst some of the most skilled and fastest skaters in the league, making it no surprise that he got Colorado in the board first thanks to a pass from Mikko Rantanen.

The remainder of the 1st period went without goals due to solid efforts from both goalies. The Bolts controlled most of the 2nd period. Under 5 minutes in, Alex Killorn wraps the puck around the glass in the Avalanche’s offensive zone to Ondrej Palat and Palat feeds it back to Killorn for his 23rd goal of the season and to tie up the game. This out the momentum train in motion as less than 2 minutes after Killorn’s goal, Cameron Gaunce rips a shot off in traffic to put the Bolts in the lead 2-1. Gaunce after the game said, “it’s been something I’ve been working on a lot, when the puck comes off the board, getting that shot, and seeing it go in has a nice feel”.

As the period began winding down, Brayden Point made a fast effort up the ice in attempts to score, but his shot came off the goalie’s pad creating another scoring opportunity the Steven Stamkos maximized on. Diving on to the ice to get the puck in the net, sending the Lightning up 3-1. 1:34 before the 2nd period ended; MacKinnon danced through the Lightning o-zone to hit a top shelf goal and his 2nd goal of the game minimizing the Bolts lead.

The 3rd period opened up with Tampa Bay still in the lead 3-2 and continued scoring attempts up and down the ice. With 7:17 left in the 3rd period Colorado with some quick puck movement causing enough confusion for Cale Makar to come down the center and score a wrist shot, tying the game 3-3. With many “almost” The Bolts and the Avs held each other off from scoring taking the game into overtime. Strong defensive plays continued and one in particular was the game changer. As MacKinnon skated to set up an opportunity to pass or score there was just enough room for Kucherov to steal the puck for a breakaway and score in the goalie’s five hole sealing the Lightning’s 11th straight win, the most consecutive wins in franchise history.

Although an entertaining game non the less, Kucherov had a closer perspective and diagnosis of the game saying “it wasn’t a good game for us. We need to have the puck on our sticks more, and more puck possession in their o-zone”. But it’s that kind of “we can do better” mentality that separates good teams from great teams and the Lightning have all the potential to be a great team!

The Lightning head off to Las Vegas to face the Golden Knights and with the newest addition to Tampa Bay’s defense will officially join them! Blake Coleman, the Bolts recent trade acquire as of Sunday, February 16th will make his Lightning debut. In his initial trade statement Coleman expressed his excitement for this new chapter and how he feels he’ll fit in with this team. Coleman said, he’s familiar with Coach Cooper’s coaching and playbook style after facing him in the USHL. Coleman said” “They’re bringing me in because I have a playoff-type game, a will to compete and a will to win”. Will see how this new chapter unfolds and if Tampa Bay can make it 12 wins on Thursday!

MLS and MLSPA 5 year Bargaining Agreement

MLS logo

Prior to entering the 25th MLS season, the MLS and MLSPA have reached a 5-year bargaining agreement. If you have been watching soccer in the USA and Canada over the past decade you would have noticed the tremendous growth within the industry. Soccer is finally becoming a must-see sport in North America. Of course, initially the audience was not expected to be where it is today, which played a role in player salaries and benefits. With that said, this 5-year bargaining agreement that the MLS and MLSPA have agreed upon is a step in the right direction for further growth of soccer (futbol) in North America.

The new agreement hit 5 major points:

  • Increased investment in player spending.
  • Greater flexibility for clubs to use new resources across the entire roster.
  • Player spending to include a share of MLS’ new media rights deals in 2023 and 2024.
  • A substantial increase in charter flights.
  • Expanded free agency.
MLS League Revenue
Information sourced from americansocceranalysis.com

 

The MLS has made some leeway on getting their top 24 rostered players better minimum and maximum salaries. The minimum salary for MLS players started from about $32,500-42,000 and Maximum capped at about $387,000. Come 2024, players maximum with cap at roughly $803,125 with better 401K and benefits. It’s a step in the right direction, but still nothing compared to the European leagues whose contacts are in the millions. It’s going to take a continued audience growth and participation to get North American soccer players on a million-dollar scale. Other key points of this new CBA agreement are salary budget flexibility, meaning $1.2 Million per season has been converted to general allocation money (Reduce the amount that a non-Designated Player costs against the salary cap down to the league minimum salary ($67,500 in 2018). Reduce the amount that a Designated Player costs against the salary cap down to $150,000. Sign players new to MLS) and can be used across the entire roster. Players will share in media revenue for the first time beginning in 2023 and 2024. Spending will be increased to 25% of the increased media revenue generated by the league in addition to $100 Million. Charter flights increase substantially. Clubs will use charter flights for 8 legs of travel starting in the 2020 season and working up to 16 legs come 2024. Lastly, expanded free agency. Free agency will now open up to player 24 years and older and have been in the MLS for at least 5 years. The MLS has 26 active clubs with 4 new teams to become active within the next two years. If the Major Soccer League continues expanding at this rate 2025 should have even more promising re-evaluations for club and player benefits!

 

And the Streak Extends to 8 Wins for the Lightning!

The first home game of 2020, the Lightning returned home with a 7-game win streak under their belt and prepped to host the Vancouver Canucks in hopes to extend their streak. The 1st period opened up in a mild manner. Both teams trying to find their footing and both goalies making significant saves. It wasn’t until under the final 2 minutes of the 1st period that a goal was finally scored. Getting on the board first was Vancouver, thanks to Elias Pettersson.

Heading into the 1st intermission down 1-0 to the Canucks, the Bolts must have had a motivating pep talk. The 2nd period opened up and in less than 5 minutes, Hedman found Palat, Palat found Johnson and Johnson found the net for his 10th goal of the season. Tying up the game, fueled up the Lightning. Another five minutes of play in the 2nd period Point set up Stamkos to score his 17th goal of the season. Vancouver’s Eriksson tied up the game in response to Stamkos’s goal, but it was Alex Killorn’s speedy unassisted goal that ignited the Bolts to let off the gas. The Lightning solidified 3 goals in under a minute! Verhaeghe took the Bolts to 4 goals, Then Kucherov knocked the score up to 5-2, and with 1:58 left in the 2nd period Cernak with a slap shot closes the period with a 6-2 lead.

3rd period meant 3 more goals for the Lighting. After the attack the Lightning led against the Canucks goalie in the 2nd, it was clear they got in his head. The Bolts defense and exemplary goalie, Vasy stepped up holding the Canucks off from any scoring opportunities, creating a lot of frustration for Vancouver, which showed. Brayden point relentlessly shooting on goal scored top shelf 4:37 into the 3rd period and then it turned into the Verhaeghe show as Carter Verhaeghe got 2 more goals for the Lightning projecting the score to a 9-2 lead and gifting the audience with his 1st NHL hat trick! The fans began tossing their hats into the rink in celebration of Verhaeghe’s successful night and career milestone.

The playoff conversation is beginning to sing a different tune for Tampa Bay… Now with an 8 game winning streak the Lightning set their eyes and intentions to make the streak 9, as they host the Arizona Coyotes at 7pm Thursday evening!

Playing at a Playoff Pace, but are The Lightning Playoff Contenders?

Adversity is probably the key word for the Tampa Bay Lightning team right now. Coming into the 2019-2020 season with many eyes on them after the way the 2018-2019 season closed out. This team has been a skillful line-up, but what is skill without the right structure. Coach Cooper has been working tirelessly to find what will work for his skilled players to find consistency and win games. Starting off the season on a two-week road trip, the Bolts had a lot on their plate. Weirdly, they were pulling off wins against tough opponents and falling short versus teams they were predicted to beat, struggling to play 60 minutes of hockey. A turning point for the Bolts was their trip to Sweden getting a chance to reset and bond as mentioned previously, we saw a more competitive team return. Sadly as soon as the Lightning began to find a rhythm, many injuries started amongst key players. Two weeks ago, Kucherov was out for thankfully 1 game, but then Stamkos was gone for 3, while as of recent Coburn is out indefinitely, and Killorn is on a day to day basis, counting him out of last night’s match up versus the Nashville Predators. The Lightning called Cory Conacher back up from Syracuse, he’s been the go-to guy to add to the line since October, but Verhaeghe ended up back in the line-up.

Last night Kucherov, Point, Palat, hit the ice as the starting line and McDonagh with Cernak as the starting d-pairing. Both the Lightning and Predators carry a lot of talent on their teams, so the game opened up with fast skating and physicality. Leave to Victor Hedman to get the Bolts on the board first through, Hedman has been relentlessly taking more shots on goal since his 1st of the season on a power play. The Predators tied it up in the 2nd period and if you thought you saw fast pace and hard skating in the 1st period of this game, the 2nd period was way more intense. The game got quite chippy and tense. Many almost fights until Luke Schenn had enough o Tyler—- resulting in a fight. Later in the chippy 2nd period Brayden Point drew a penalty as he went for the puck and got elbowed in the face, after reviewing the play, the referees felt that it was intentional dealing the Bolts a 5-minute power play that they unfortunately couldn’t score in, the Predators did a heck of a job holding the Lightning to center ice.

We saw the d-pairings playing way more up than usual, at this point there isn’t really a “stay at home” defenseman or at least not last night. In the 3rd period Nashville tied up the game yet again and both teams really battled for the win, but overtime was the result. What better duo than Stamkos to Kucherov could you picture to secure the win for the Lightning. The Bolts left Nashville with 2 hard earned points. Last night’s game was played at a playoff pace and intensity as the Lightning sit 5 below the ranking line in the East and Nashville sits 3 below in the West. It’s officially that time of the year where every game counts and there are only so many games left before playoffs are here. Will the Bolts be playoff contenders? A short time will tell. The Lightning head back home to host the Minnesota Wild, tomorrow at 7pm.

Sabres at Lightning

 

An electric 4th line combo and special teams are creating a contagious affect throughout the Bolts team! The Bolts played one of their best games of the season last Thursday versus the Blackhawks and the consistency has remained versus the Ducks Saturday and the Sabres last night. Keep in mind, these step-up performances came without Kucherov and Stamkos, last Thursday, then without Stamkos Saturday and last night. We’re hopeful to see a healthy Stammer back in the line up Wednesday, but it’s up in the air. Kucherov was luckily able to return as of Saturday and has broke his silence collecting 2 goals and 3 points in the last 2 games.

Coach Cooper feels that the guys set the tone for this game in Sweden, which confidence wise could be the case, but it has been the last 2 games before the Sabres rematch that the Lightning have appeared to find their footing. The guys are skating hard and getting better reads off one another. One duo in particular, Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn, opportunities are created when these two are on the ice, they both play very smart, relentless hockey. Some of their similarities may be the cause of their ability to read each other so well.

As we mentioned earlier, the Bolts special teams have begun to look familiar in the sense that this month penalty kills have been getting back to the best in the league. Last night, special teams kicked it up a notch with 2 short-handed goals within 49 seconds!

The Lightning defense have come together well, starting with being ranked 3rd in the league for defensive men point leaders. They have had less gaps in the D-Zone and have been making some fast corrections. The best chance the Sabres had all games is when they were applying pressure to the Bolts along the boards, but that didn’t hold up in the 3rd period, the Lightning made it entirely their game.

The stats were in favor of a Lightning win, but the Jets’ did just enough to take the W!

The Lightning appeared to have struck up consistency and chemistry within their lines, but that did not stop coach Cooper from still shuffling up his lines and creating some other interesting match ups. Saturday’s lines against the Winnipeg Jets were as is:

Palat-Stamkos-Verhaeghe
Johnson-Point-Kucherov
Killorn-Cirelli-Joseph
Maroon-Paquette-Gourde
Hedman-Shattenkirk
McDonagh-Cernak
Sergachev-Schenn

Coach Cooper after the game said that he wasn’t too happy with how the first few shifts went in the game, but things started to pick up once the guys found their legs. With that said, the first few shifts were not looking too strong, creating opportunity for Winnipeg to get on the board first and control most of the 1st period. The Jets were predominantly winning faceoffs which they would capitalize throughout the game, but once the 2nd period came about, the Lightning took control of the game.

Although the Bolts SOG (56%) were strong, their finishing percentage struggled. Halfway through the game the Bolts began to pick up some momentum. Their penalty kills were managed quite well through out the game, but there was still an unfortunate amount of penalties accounted for against the Bolts. The costly one being the delay of game penalty, when coach Cooper challenged for a high sticking call on Ehlers seconds before Jack Roslovic connected down the center with Andrew Coop for a goal. Nikolaj Ehlers played at a pretty unstoppable pace, he needed to be marked a bit more aggressively, but Ehlers has consistently produced seeing as he has had 7 goals in 9 games against the Lightning.
Aside from the trouble Ehlers created for the Bolts this game was really won by Winnipeg’s goalie, Hellebuyck and his 31 saves. One of the biggest saves of the night was a shot from Ondrej Palat, that could have swung the game into overtime with Cirelli’s goal 22 seconds before the end of the 3rd period. Statistically the Lightning should have won this match up, but The Jets did just enough to take this win.

On a positive note, Bolt’s captain, Steven Stamkos scored his 400th career goal versus the Jets, making franchise history with the Lightning organization and of course hitting a personal career benchmark. Cooper praised Stamkos’s accomplishment by saying that “many players don’t even get to play 400 games in this league, so to reach 400 goals says a lot”. Tampa Bay will head back on the road to face the St. Louis Blues, Tuesday night at 8pm.

Rangers at Lightning

The second meeting of the season between the Rangers and the Lightning takes place this Thursday at Amalie Arena in hopes of better results and less injuries. The first match up took place in New York when the Bolts hit the road for their 2nd road trip. The game didn’t pan out in favor of the Lightning who have struggled to strike consistency in their lines and are at a low percentage in PKs this season after being one of the top teams in the league last season. In press conferences, you can see the frustration from coach Cooper when last season is brought up. The team is dealing with different circumstances this year and continuing to switch up the lines to see what will work out.
When the team got to Sweden, players mentioned that time being an opportunity to reset and refocus. In addition to the ability to reset, the team said that the experience as a whole gave them a chance to bond further as teammates. Mathieu Joseph said, “when you like your teammates you are more willing to sacrifice for them, which helps”. Well Joseph and the guys were on to something because a new focus and respect showed on the ice versus the 9-4-2 Buffalo Sabres as the Bolts closed out the series with back to back victories.
Kucherov got on the board again for the 2nd time since his scoreless 6-game streak. Hedman was in a euphoric state playing in his country and it showed in his game. Although the lines appeared to work in Sweden, more changes came Monday morning. Alex Volkov, whom ended up replacing Luke Witkowski before the NHL Global Series got sent back to Syracuse, which now leaves question as to who will possibly be pulled up to the Bolts roster this week versus the Rangers? The Rangers are beatable and with the talent the Lightning have regardless of their record, they should be capable of taking this win. Although Saturday’s lines appeared to perform well together, the practice lines have shifted. As of yesterday morning, the lines were:
Joseph-Johnson-Stamkos
Palat-Point-Kucherov
Killorn-Cirelli-Gourde
Maroon-Paquette-Verhaeghe
Hedman-Shattenkirk
McDonagh-Cernak
Sergachev-Schenn
Coburn-Rutta
Both the Rangers and the Lightning are 3-2 in their last 5 games, the Bolts’ average of goals allowed per game is at 3.47 in comparison to the Rangers’ 3.25 average, which speaks to the special team issues the Lightning have been having, but if they carry the momentum they found in Sweden into tonight’s match-up, the game should be theirs for the taking. Puck drops at 7pm tonight, stay tuned with Florida National News for more Tampa Bay Lightning updates!

It’s Still Early, Don’t Hit the Panic Button on the Bolts Just Yet?

TB

Last night the Lightning began their 2nd road trip of the season, facing off against a young New York Rangers team. After a close call loss to the Predators Saturday night, most would have predicted the Bolts to win this game. Although the Lightning hit ice with early mis footings and lack of connections, they were the first on the board after Point showed his speed coming up the ice to connect a pass to Kucherov. This was a hopeful early sign, especially because Kucherov scoring wise has been silent for the past 6 games.

As Brayden Point put it in an interview this morning, “We’ve got a lot of skill and sometimes we’re just not using it. Passes are a little bit off right now.” Tampa Bay is a very skilled team, but the connection is still lost upon the lines. It’s still early in the season and consistency right now is the best bet to see what chemistry strikes up. Coach Cooper is not short sided on this, hints his constant shuffling of the lines and D-pairings. Coach Cooper says that he’s not upset with the how the guys are playing right now.

It’s a frustrating loss to fall to a re-building Rangers team, but according to defenseman, Ryan McDonagh, “they won more battles than us last night”. The Bolts must continue working on minimizing turnovers and maximizing on their offensive zone time. It’s going to be a long season if the team is relying on Vasy to make many big saves every game. It didn’t help that they played without key player, Anthony Cirelli, then lost Victor Hedman and pat Maroon in the 1st period. They loss of those players ended up putting more pressure on the rest of the Lightning players and their legs.

Sources say that this morning Tampa Bay called up Cory Conacher and Alex Volkov to the Lightning roster, possibility that we will see both guys on the roster tonight as the Bolts face the New Jersey Devils. The Devils have had some strong surges against good opponents, so they are not to be over looked in the potential performance they can serve up tonight, but they don’t have a goalie who’s shoulders they can rest the game on. If the Lightning show up in the offensive zone tonight and really place shots on goal, they can head to Long Island with a victory and confidence.