Souhan: Predictability reigns, especially with Wild and Wolves

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 9, 2014 - 6:33 AM
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New Wild winger Thomas Vanek

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Left the country for two weeks, returned to find that our sports teams are more predictable than the effect of Mexican tap water on the dainty American gastrointestinal system.

Stop me if I’ve heard this one:

• Joe Mauer is hurt.

• The Twins can’t hit.

• The Wild signed a player with local ties.

• A former Twin found success after leaving — this time Vance Worley in Pittsburgh.

• The Timberwolves conducted a draft that caused their fan base to collectively smack their foreheads so hard that they will be able to file a concussion lawsuit.

• Kevin Love is dying to leave.

So I didn’t miss anything.

The Twins will bottom-feed until their best prospects establish themselves as winning big-league players.

The Vikings will invest faith in another defensive coordinator they believe can get the most out of their players.

Our two primary winter-sports franchises have become even more predictable.

The Wild is selling out to win a championship.

The Timberwolves are in full retreat from their remarkably modest goal of someday returning to the playoffs.

As the Wild’s brain trust has maneuvered to gain credibility over the past four years, it has made plenty of moves deserving criticism, or at least prompting skepticism.

The Timberwolves, despite deserved cynicism, have made a handful of moves that seemed promising, including hiring Rick Adelman to coach.

But the Wild’s boldness has elevated the franchise to the point where its talk about someday winning a Stanley Cup now sounds more like a plan than a hope, while the Timberwolves have put Flip Saunders’ old band back together as they prepare to trade their only star.

Clearly, the Wild has operated with more intelligence than the Timberwolves, but there also is a difference between the franchises that leaves the Wolves lacking:

Hockey stars want to play in Minnesota. Basketball stars do not.

If Zach Parise and Ryan Suter had not decided that they wanted to play together at the X, the Wild would not have made the playoffs the past two years, and might not have been able to sign former Gopher Thomas Vanek. The Wild would resemble the Wolves.

The Wild brain trust deserves some credit for luring players with local ties, because Parise would not have chosen a team if he didn’t think he would have a chance to win, and Parise is both the Wild’s best player and its free-agent beacon.

Without Parise and Suter, the Wild’s other moves either wouldn’t matter, or wouldn’t have been possible.

The Wild can offer an owner willing to spend until it hurts, a spectacular arena, a remarkably loyal fan base and an organization filled with promising youngsters. Given what the franchise has to offer, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by the arrival of Parise, Suter and Vanek.

What can the Timberwolves offer?

Their owner once paid Joe Smith under the table, and hired David Kahn. They have followed Kahn’s horrific drafts by using first-round picks on players from UCLA — one of whom is a ball hog, the other of whom didn’t even start last season for the Bruins. They have won two playoff series in franchise history.

They play in a mediocre facility, during winters so harsh most Minnesotans flee the state as often as they can afford a plane ticket. While local hockey players love staying in Minnesota during the summer, most basketball players leave the day after the season ends for bigger cities and warmer climes.

The Wolves’ best player wants out. They never have signed a premier free agent in his prime.

After rumors were published describing a trade that would send Love elsewhere and bring in Golden State guard Klay Thompson, whose father played for the Gophers, Mychal Thompson said:

“It just kind of depressed me.’’

And: “I’m going to have to talk [Klay] down off a ledge.’’

The Wild has operated more shrewdly than the Wolves for the past five years. The Wild also has taken advantage of its advantage — the ability to lure star players to what is becoming an American hockey mecca.

 

Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. His Twitter name is @SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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