The faces of the four major sports franchises in the Twin Cities are Kevin Love with the Timberwolves, Adrian Peterson with the Vikings, Joe Mauer with the Twins and Zach Parise with the Wild.
I would call that the proper order, based on the current level of prominence for all within their sports.
There are qualifiers for the entire group as to their futures here as franchise faces:
Love is seen by a high percentage of both NBA national analysts and Minnesota’s paranoid fans as likely to be gone by the summer of 2015. Peterson went from 2,087 yards rushing to 1,266, and his team went from 10-6 to 5-10-1, from 2012 to 2013. He’s now 29 and in a league that has devalued running backs.
Mauer took a P.R. hit during his injury-ruined season of 2011 and has not recovered his standing as a hometown favorite. Parise is effective more as a relentless worker than as an offensive star, which isn’t the norm for capturing the most attention for a franchise in any sport.
There are obvious candidates to replace these “faces” in the near future:
Ricky Rubio’s much-improved play in recent weeks has him back in line to hold that role if the Wolves have a Love-less future. The Vikings’ fan base already has embraced last year’s rookie receiver and returner, Cordarrelle Patterson, as a better version of Percy Harvin.
Mikael Granlund has been everything in his second season that Wild fans were led to believe they would see from him as a rookie in 2012-13. The one disclaimer to that is he’s going to have to avoid concussions.
As for the Twins, the gap between Mauer’s gigantic popularity of 2010 and a fresh face of the franchise is such it might require the arrival of an instantly productive Byron Buxton in 2015.
For me, there’s another foursome that is going to fill voids over the next year — and to do so with enough flair that we’ll see their names on numerous jerseys in St. Paul, at Target Center, at Target Field and on Sundays at TCF Bank Stadium:
Jonas Brodin: The Wild defenseman was a revelation for his steadiness as a 19-year-old rookie in 2012-13. He started this season with six points in nine games, moving legendary coach Scott Bowman to tell the Star Tribune’s Mike Russo:
“He doesn’t have a gap. He’s such a good skater; if you notice, he’s always up. He doesn’t back up at all. That’s the way the good ones are … like Lidstrom, there’s no room.”
That would be Nicklas Lidstrom, as in perhaps the best defenseman ever to have a long NHL career.
The praise for Brodin declined over the winter. The expert opinion seems to be that he’s fallen off some in his second season. Perhaps, but there remains a big chance that Brodin will use his skating and instincts to give the Wild the best NHL defenseman with a puck to be employed in these parts since Craig Hartsburg (1979-89) with the North Stars.
“Brodin is going to add quite a bit of offense as he matures,” Lou Nanne said. “Don’t expect Hartsburg, though. He was unreal with the puck.”
Gorgui Dieng: Hidden from view for most of his rookie season, the 6-11 center/forward has been a revelation over the past month for the Wolves. Who knew that more was there than a shot blocker? He can play away from the basket, he’s aggressive offensively and on the boards, and he wants to defend.
You can see this already: a future matchup where coach Fred Hoiberg tells Dieng that he’s assigned to Lakers star Kevin Love, and Gorgui goes after him hellbent, until he fouls out trying.
Oswaldo Arcia: Don’t get fixated on the flailing you’ve seen to this point. He doesn’t turn 23 until May 9. He’ll have a 25-home run season for the Twins before he turns 25. The future here is Buxton, Miguel Sano … and Arcia.