Wilfs back Frazier in retooling roster

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 16, 2011 - 4:35 AM

Few key Vikings will become free agents after this season, which will help as the team tries to plug holes.

When the Vikings faced the Broncos on Dec. 4, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf told me in an exclusive interview that Leslie Frazier will be retained as Vikings coach next season.

Checking with Frazier on Thursday about what he has heard concerning his coaching status, he told me Zygi and Mark Wilf have assured him he will return.

He said the team owners realize a lot of holes must be filled next year, and they plan to do everything they can to upgrade the roster and rebound from this dismal 2-11 season.

"It's frustrating to go through the losses that we've had this season, but I think we're on the same page in regards to what we need to do this offseason to avoid another season like this," Frazier said. "[The Wilfs] have been very supportive throughout this year. I'm looking forward to when we sit down this offseason to just dissect our entire team and organization and just figure out what we've got to do. They're very supportive. They've been humble in all aspects."

Frazier said the Vikings will have a good nucleus coming back and one of the positives looking ahead to 2012 is there is a limited number of key Vikings players who will be free agents at the end of this year.

This group includes linebacker E.J. Henderson and tight ends Visanthe Shiancoe and Jim Kleinsasser.

"We just need to fill a few holes," Frazier said. "You and I both know, you can do that in our league. You can turn things around real fast."

One thing that has impressed Frazier about this group of players is that despite their 2-11 record, they never have quit on the coach.

"That's the darndest thing," he said. "Our guys have battled every week and just a play here or there could have changed our fortune for this season. I mean to be down like they were against Detroit and to battle back and to have a chance to win that game on the last play, I mean just incredible. The fight that they have and the way they want to compete to try to win, they really want to win. So we'll keep fighting."

And rest assured, after losing their past two matchups with the Saints -- including the 2009 NFC Championship Game -- the Vikings will have every reason to try and win Sunday in order to hurt New Orleans' playoff positioning.

Teammates leaving?

Justin Morneau said he has talked to Twins free agents Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, trying to keep updated and convince them the team needs them to come back and that it's going to be a good season next year.

"They know the manager and how fun it is to play on this baseball team, and how close it is, how much of a family it is," Morneau said. "Sometimes the grass isn't always greener on the other side, but they have to weigh their options and do what's best for their families and themselves, and hopefully it ends up being that they're Minnesota Twins.

"They're great teammates, great people. I've enjoyed playing with them, and I hope they're all back."

But now Morneau can most likely say goodbye to both Kubel and Cuddyer, because with the Twins signing former Oakland outfielder Josh Willingham to a three-year, $21 million contract, there's a good chance neither player will be back with the club.

A year ago, after Twins players complained about having difficulty seeing the ball coming out of the pitcher's hand because of the backdrop in center field at Target Field, the team removed a number of pine trees from in front of the batter's eye.

Now team president Dave St. Peter reports another change might be made to improve the batter's eye before the 2012 season.

St. Peter also said promoters of the Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw concert, which will be held next July 8 in Target Field, told him the concert was the fastest sellout (less than 24 hours) of the tour.

Coleman emerges

Former Hopkins star Joe Coleman has come on strong for the Gophers men's basketball team in the past three games, and coach Tubby Smith paid the freshman a real compliment when he said: "Joe is probably the most aggressive player that I've had the good fortune to coach. He doesn't mind challenging anyone at the basket. He knocked down a three the other day, and he's developing an outside shot. He's a real force. He adds some real quality depth to our backcourt."

Coleman has averaged 10.3 points and two assists per game over the Gophers' past three contests, after putting up a total of two points over the team's first nine games.

Smith has had pretty good luck with Hopkins players in the past, including Dan Coleman, Joe's brother, whom he coached for one season, and Blake Hoffarber. One Hopkins star who didn't stick around was Royce White, who never played for the Gophers after some off-court issues and eventually transferred to Iowa State. He is averaging 15 points and 9.7 rebounds per game for the Cyclones this season.

Jottings

• Forbes Magazine, in its most recent issue, ranks the Wild No. 14 in NHL franchise value. Forbes rates the value of the franchise at $213 million and reports the team lost $5.9 million last year. The Toronto Maple Leafs are rated the most valuable franchise at $521 million and their most recent profit was $81.8 million, followed by the New York Rangers with a value of $507 million and profit of $41.4 million and the Montreal Canadiens with a team value of $445 million and profit of $47.7 million.

• Gophers recruits Connor Reilly and Mario Lucia are the top two scorers for Penticton of the British Columbia Hockey League. Reilly has 25 goals and 31 assists in 33 games and Lucia has 22 goals and 34 assists in 29 games. ... One of Reilly's brothers, Mike, is the team's top scoring defenseman with 13 goals and 29 assists in 29 games. Another brother, Ryan, has 19 goals and 19 assists in 33 games. ... Also on the team is St. Francis' Joey Benik, a St. Cloud State recruit who has 10 goals and 38 assists, and Edina's Steven Fogarty, a Notre Dame recruit and Rangers draft pick who has 16 goals and 24 assists.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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