This feels like a vulnerable time for Minnesota pro sports teams, with a wide range of possible outcomes that could dictate each team's future. As such, let's take a spin through the best-case and worst-case scenarios for our local pro teams over the next few months:
Best case: The season's first 60 games were indicative of the team's overall strength. The Wild gets back to having a potent offense driven by balanced scoring and Devan Dubnyk once again plays like one of the NHL's best goalies, leading the Wild on a deep playoff run that includes a series win over rival Chicago.
Worst case: A recent slide that saw the Wild lose eight of 10 and struggle in several areas carries over to the playoffs, where a great three-fourths of the season is undone by a first-round exit — made even more painful if it's at the hands of Mike Yeo-coached St. Louis.
Best case: The progress witnessed for much of the second half of the season and most notably right after the All-Star break is fortified by a strong closing stretch. The Wolves then use a high draft pick on a rim-protecting big man and sign a lockdown perimeter defender who can make threes in free agency, giving them real potential going into 2017-18.
Worst case: The improved play was a mirage and young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are burned out from the heavy minutes and demanding style of coach Tom Thibodeau. Free agents don't want to come here, Towns and Wiggins start planting rumors about wanting to be traded and the franchise hits reset again.
Best case: The Vikings draft two competent young offensive linemen, giving them some real depth to go with their two free-agent tackles. They uncover one more red zone playmaker at receiver — Laquon Treadwell or someone else — and suddenly their offense is functional. The defense, which no longer feels like it has to carry the team every game, starts dominating again.
Worst case: The offensive line upgrades don't end up being enough, and as a result points are hard to come by and/or Sam Bradford gets hurt. The defense continues to feel like it needs to win every game 2-0. Mike Zimmer starts working 29 hours each day, but the team plummets to 6-10.
Best case: Two of every three (or more) players with a high ceiling but low floor on the Twins roster comes through this season.
Worst case: One of every three (or fewer) of those players comes through this season. The description of "high ceiling, low floor," by the way, pertains to about 20 of the 25 players projected to make the Opening Day roster.
Best case: Maya Moore and the veterans around her continue to prove they are one of the best teams in the West, silencing any doubters (again) who think the Lynx are getting too old.
Worst case: Age catches up with Seimone Augustus (33 next month), Lindsay Whalen (35 in two months) and Rebekkah Brunson (35) and the Lynx start to fade.
Best case: The recent draw at Colorado proves more indicative of the team's potential than two lopsided losses to start the season. The expansion side has typical growing pains but offers plenty of reasons for optimism along the way.
Worst case: Those first two losses by a combined 11-2 margin prove to be more the rule than the exception, going beyond typical growing pains and making it hard for diehard soccer fans to take the team seriously. As a result, the Loons have a hard time carving out their desired space in a crowded sports market.