Rand: Pivotal players are already here for local teams

  • Updated: July 4, 2013 - 11:48 PM

Mikko Koivu likely will matter far more next season to the Wild than any player the team brings in this offseason.

Photo: Star Tribune file, Star Tribune file

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Much of the local sports conversation lately has centered upon player movement among our various pro teams. What players are coming in, which ones are leaving, and how much will it make a difference?

Greg Jennings gives the Vikings renewed life, as do their three first-round picks. The Wild shook things up with a draft-day trade and will be looking for more roster overhauling. The Timberwolves retained Chase Budinger, who barely played in his first season with the Wolves because of an injury, and added shooting guard Kevin Martin to go with their draft class.

All of this is well and good. But this seems like a good time to offer a reminder that the real players who will make or break those three teams likely already existed on their rosters before all the moving and shaking began. More specifically, these three players — one from each team — will be hugely influential on their team’s success next season and will be the target of much adulation or scorn from the public depending on how things go:

• Mikko Koivu, Wild: Part of the push to get Zach Parise and Ryan Suter last offseason was to supplement a key piece the Wild already had in place in Koivu. But after the captain went without a point and was a minus-6 in the team’s five-game playoff series loss to the Blackhawks, he comes into 2013-14 with plenty to prove and achieve if the Wild is going to take another step forward.

• Kevin Love, Wolves: At his best (2011-12), Love is a versatile, game-changing forward and one of the top 20 players in the NBA. At his worst (2012-13), he appears pouty, injury-prone and unhappy to be here. The Wolves need to stay healthy and focused this season; a healthy and motivated Love could make the Wolves one of the top eight teams in the Western Conference this year.

• Christian Ponder, Vikings: Minnesota grabbed Jennings in free agency and drafted Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round. They also brought in Matt Cassel, a backup QB option with far more accomplishments than Ponder’s competition had a year ago. Translation: This is Ponder’s make-or-break year, and a chance to find out if Minnesota made the playoffs because of him or despite him last season.

MICHAEL RAND

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Cleveland - LP: T. Bauer 1 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: A. Swarzak 3
Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake 1 FINAL
Milwaukee - WP: K. Lohse 5
Kansas City - WP: W. Davis 2 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: Z. Putnam 1
Washington - LP: S. Strasburg 4 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. De La Rosa 6
NY Mets - WP: B. Colon 3 FINAL
Seattle - LP: T. Walker 2
Detroit - WP: A. Sanchez 11 FINAL
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 5
Los Angeles - D. Haren 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - F. Liriano
San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 6:05 PM
Philadelphia - A. Burnett
Texas - Y. Darvish 6:05 PM
NY Yankees - D. Phelps
Boston - C. Buchholz 6:07 PM
Toronto - R. Dickey
Miami - N. Eovaldi 6:10 PM
Atlanta - E. Santana
Tampa Bay - A. Cobb 6:15 PM
St. Louis - L. Lynn
San Diego - I. Kennedy 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - T. Wada
Houston - B. Peacock 9:05 PM
Oakland - J. Chavez
Baltimore - C. Tillman 9:05 PM
LA Angels - J. Weaver
Chicago 9:30 PM
San Jose
Calgary 7/24/14 8:00 PM
Edmonton
Winnipeg 7/25/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Ottawa 7/26/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Toronto 7/26/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Winnipeg 7/31/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Connecticut 75 FINAL
Washington 89
New York 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pm
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pm
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pm
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pm
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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