As Minnesota’s four major men’s pro sports teams hit rock bottom as a collective in 2011 — none made the playoffs, and they weren’t even particularly close in the end — we wondered which would be the next of the bunch to make the playoffs.
The times now are, at least, better. The Vikings and Wild have been in playoff games this calendar year. The Timberwolves have the makings of a nucleus that could challenge for a spot. The Twins have already moved the needle from hopeless to functional and could be a year away from being downright dangerous.
As such, we revisit the question with the bar set higher: What will be the next of the four to WIN a playoff series — or, in the Vikings’ case, a game? (And yes, we are aware the Lynx and others have done it more recently. Their success eliminates them from this game.)
This is a bit of a dare-we-dream proposition, considering he Vikings’ playoff victory following the 2009 season is the only postseason advancement among the four in the past eight calendar years. Among the other three? The Wolves (in 2004) own the most recent series victory.
But let’s try it anyway, with percentage guesses as to which team is most likely to do it next:
• Vikings: 40 percent. A 10-victory team added talent through the draft, found a receiver in Greg Jennings and a functional backup QB in Matt Cassel. A return trip to the postseason is not a lock, but you don’t have to squint too much to see it, either. Once there, the NFL is the easiest to advance since it’s a one-game proposition.
• Wild: 35 percent. Cornerstone players Zach Parise and Ryan Suter aren’t going anywhere, while young reinforcements are on the way to join the likes of Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin and Jason Zucker. A lot of new components were pulled together in a slapdash 48-game season. The Wild took a step this year and could take another next year.
• Twins: 15 percent. It’s probably not happening this year, despite the team’s improvement. Even 2014 might be early. But if the Wild and Vikings don’t win soon, the Twins and a talented young core could be primed to make a push starting in 2015.
• Wolves: 10 percent. Even if the Wolves get the shooting guard they so desperately need … and get a fully healthy and engaged Kevin Love back … the West is loaded and could remain that way. Five teams won at least 56 games in the West this year. The Wolves should set their sights on a return to .500 and then wonder about the next step.