A couple months ago, this question was posed to me: Out of the Vikings, Timberwolves, Wild and Twins, which is the team most likely to win a championship in the next five years?
I answered quickly, and I’ve already changed my answer. Also, if we want to fully embrace this exercise, every major pro sports team in town should be represented. So let’s expand the question to include the Lynx and United.
All six of those teams are front-brain right now. Four are in-season, while the Lynx and Vikings have drafts this month.
Which of those six is the most likely to win it all in the next five years? Here is the ranking, which starts off pretty easy and almost immediately gets much harder.
1. Lynx: I mean, they’re the only one out of the group that has won a major championship in the last 25-plus years. And they’ve won four WNBA titles in the last seven seasons. They might be getting older, but they are still the surest bet — by far — to deliver a championship in the next five seasons.
2. Vikings: Here’s where I’ve already flip-flopped. As a politician, I’d be accused of being weak-minded. As a haver of sports thoughts, maybe we can just say I’ve re-evaluated thanks to new information. Isn’t that the goal in life? To keep improving on our thoughts instead of stubbornly clinging to outdated ways of thinking? Anyway, the Vikings’ offseason acquisition of Kirk Cousins, combined with their ongoing mindset that it’s OK to improve upon strengths, elevates them. It doesn’t hurt that they were only one game away from playing for a championship last season.
3. Twins: I originally had them ahead of the Vikings. I still like the Twins’ chances, but there are a lot of stubbornly good American League teams still ahead of them and the real separator — elite starting pitching — is still developing in their minor league system. If you could tell me that Fernando Romero and Stephen Gonsalves are going to be as good as we think they are in the majors by 2019, I’d stick with the Twins ahead of the Vikings. As it is, the Twins are still loaded more heavily with potential than results.
4. Wild: Minnesota is one of just three NHL teams to make the playoffs each of the last six seasons. As long as the Wild keeps getting in, a Stanley Cup title is possible. But the first-round matchup was going to be brutal this season even before Ryan Suter was injured. After five years of advancing no further than the second round, t’s also fair to wonder if this team just isn’t quite built properly for a deep postseason run.
5. Timberwolves: They’re on the right track in some ways, but there are still a lot of steps remaining before Minnesota can compete with the likes of Golden State and Houston. The Wolves need more pieces, more experience and at least a couple of breaks to go their way in the next few years to be legitimate title contenders.
6. United: It will be interesting to see where the second-year MLS franchise will land on this list in, say, one or two years — once the franchise can settle into its new stadium and put all its focus on the on-field product. For now, it’s all projection. Every other Minnesota pro team is further along on a path to success.