Rand: Things have been worse for the local teams

  • Updated: July 23, 2014 - 7:40 PM
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The Wild’s Erik Haula celebrated with fans after scoring against the Blackhawks in the playoffs last year.

Photo: JEFF WHEELER ‘ • jeff.wheeler@startribune.com,

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These are not the best days, collectively, for the Timberwolves, Twins, Vikings and Wild, but these are not the worst in recent memory. That honor goes to the spring of 2011, when the Timberwolves completed a 17-win season under Kurt Rambis, the Wild trudged to a playoff-free season, the Vikings tore up an aging roster after a disastrous 2010 and the Twins went from good to awful overnight.

Indeed, three years after that nadir, those four teams are at various stages of rebuilding — but the four combined offer four of the most compelling types of stories that keep fans interested:

• Team: Wild. Type of story: Well-built team aiming for the next step.

Any team that makes the playoffs in this market is going to be celebrated, but mix in an owner willing to spend with a good core of young talent and you suddenly have a team that can capture the imagination of fans with nothing more than on-ice play.

• Team: Wolves. Type of story: Potential trade of a superstar for young, intriguing pieces.

The Wolves haven’t participated in the playoffs in a decade. They play in a brutal conference. And they are on the verge of losing the second-best player in a 25-year franchise history. So why is my e-mail flooded with messages from intrigued fans wondering about a Kevin Love trade? Because trade stories offer the dual seductions of mystery and potential. Add in that the past two No. 1 overall picks could be part of a deal and we’re off the charts with speculation and interest, even if the Wolves figure to take a step back in the short-term.

• Team: Vikings: Type of story: New coaching regime ready to start over with revamped roster.

Mike Zimmer is 0-0 as an NFL head coach, and that’s a powerful position heading into the opening of his first training camp with the Vikings on Thursday. “Let’s see what Zimmer can do with the defense” and “When will Teddy Bridgewater start at quarterback” are talking pieces to keep even the most cautious fan occupied.

• Team: Twins. Type of story: Young players on the verge of making an impact.

Admittedly, this one is getting harder to buy and sell when a lot of youngsters are slumping (Oswaldo Arcia), fighting constant injuries (Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano) or stuck in Triple-A while others get called up (Alex Meyer, Trevor May). But the Twins fan who can keep an eye on the long-term prize can still find solace and even genuine excitement about the future.

Michael Rand

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