As such, let’s take a spin through the best-case and worst-case scenarios for our local pro teams over the next few months:
Wild: Best-case scenario — The first 60 games of the season were indicative of the team’s overall strength. Minnesota gets back to having a potent offense driven by balanced scoring and Devan Dubnyk once again plays like one of the NHL’s best goalies, leading the Wild on a deep playoff run that includes a series win over the rival Blackhawks.
Worst-case scenario — A recent slide that saw Minnesota lose eight of 10 games and struggle in several areas carries over to the playoffs, where a great three-fourths of the season is undone by a first-round exit — made even more painful if it’s at the hands of the Blues and former Wild coach Mike Yeo.
Wolves: Best-case scenario — The progress witnessed for much of the second half of the season and most notably right after the all-star break is fortified by a strong closing stretch to this season. The Wolves then use a high draft pick on a rim-protecting big man and sign a lockdown perimeter defender who can make threes in free agency, giving them real potential going into next year.
Worst-case: The improved play was a mirage and young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are burned out from the heavy minutes and demanding style of coach Tom Thibodeau. Free agents don’t want to come here, Towns and Wiggins start planting rumors about wanting to be traded and the franchise hits reset again.
Vikings: Best-case scenario — The Vikings draft two competent young offensive linemen next month, giving them some real depth to go with their two new free agent tackles. They uncover one more red zone playmaker at wide receiver — whether it’s Laquon Treadwell or someone else — and suddenly their offense is functional. The defense, which no longer feels like it has to carry the team every game, starts dominating again.
Worst-case scenario — The offensive line upgrades don’t end up being enough, and as a result points are hard to come by and/or Sam Bradford gets hurt. The defense continues to feel like it needs to win every game 2-0. Mike Zimmer starts working 29 hours each day, but the team plummets to 6-10.
Twins: Best-case scenario — Two of every three (or more) players with a high ceiling but low floor comes through this season.
Worst-case scenario — One of every three (or fewer) of those players comes through this season. The description of “high ceiling, low floor,” by the way, pertains to about 20 of the 25 players projected to make the opening day roster.
Lynx: Best-case scenario — Maya Moore and the veterans around her continue to prove they are one of the best teams in the West, silencing any doubters (again) who think the Lynx are getting too old.
Worst-case scenario — Age catches up with Seimone Augustus (33 next month), Lindsay Whalen (35 in two months) and Rebekkah Brunson (35) and the Lynx start to fade.
United: Best-case scenario — The recent draw at Colorado (never an easy place to play) proves more indicative of the team’s potential than two lopsided losses to start the season. The expansion side has typical growing pains but offers plenty of reasons for optimism along the way.
Worst-case scenario — Those first two losses by a combined 11-2 margin prove to be more the rule than the exception, going beyond typical growing pains and making it hard for die-hard soccer fans to take the team seriously. As a result, the Loons have a hard time carving out their desired space in a crowded sports market.