There are six Minnesota teams to which the Star Tribune currently devotes at least one staff writer to cover all games, home and away: the Vikings, Twins, Wild and Timberwolves as well as Gophers football and Gophers men’s basketball. Based on national interest and revenue, one could certainly consider those the “big six” beats in this market. That’s not to say there aren’t other important teams or good stories — the Lynx, Minnesota United (with a growing profile now that it will join MLS) and many other Gophers teams, including men’s hockey, are among them.
But for the sake of the here and now, let’s focus on those “big six” — and specifically, the four of them that have played since the calendar flipped to 2016: the Vikings, Wild, Timberwolves and Gophers men’s basketball.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about how far a lot of Minnesota teams had come in the past five years, noting that many of them were trending upward. Long-term, I still very much believe that to be true. But in the short term — the first 12 days of 2016 — the arrow isn’t just pointing down … it’s falling off the map.
Most notably, there’s this sickening stat, which was pointed out by colleague Jim Foster: since the new year, the Vikings (0-1), Timberwolves (0-5), Wild (0-3) and Gophers men’s basketball (0-2) are a combined 0-11 in home games.
Again, some of this pain is temporary; the Vikings’ home loss was a heartbreaker, but it came at the end of a very good season that could give way to better times ahead. The Wild is riding its traditional roller-coaster, but a playoff spot is still a very strong possibility (88.9 percent, according to Hockey Reference). The Wolves and Gophers? Eh, not so much. Their best years are ahead of them by the default of they can’t get much worse.
And it should be noted at least: the Vikings, Wolves and Wild all won their final home games of 2015, while the Gophers won their second-to-last.
But regardless of circumstance or long-term prognosis, 0-11 is a grim reality in 2016. For some gallows humor, let’s take a crack at setting odds as to which of those four teams will be the first to win a home game in 2016:
*Minnesota Wild: 1 to 1. This is the strongest bet on a couple of fronts. First, of the three of these teams currently playing, the Wild always has the best chance of winning. Second, the Wild has the next home game of any of these teams, taking on Winnipeg on Friday at Xcel Energy Center. That said, the Wild is just 1-2 against the Jets this year (1-1 at the X), and after Friday the Wild isn’t home again until Jan. 25.
*Timberwolves: 5 to 2. The Wolves are a mess right now, and they’re just 5-17 this season at home. That said, their next home game is Sunday against the Suns — who are 1-9 in their last 10 games and are equally a mess. If ever there was a time for the Wolves to win at home, this is it. After that, they only have two more home games the rest of the month — against Memphis and Oklahoma City, a pair of playoff contenders in the West.
*Gophers: 5 to 2. The Gophers have lost their last two games by 25 points apiece, and last night’s debacle at Nebraska could have been far worse at the end. Next up at home ? Saturday against Indiana, which is 14-3 overall and unbeaten so far in Big Ten play. Still, a home court advantage can still be a big deal in the Big Ten. And even if the Gophers don’t win Saturday, they have a shot Jan. 23 at Williams Arena against struggling Illinois.
*Vikings: 1,000 to 1: This isn’t really fair since the Vikings don’t have another regular-season home game until September. The Wild, Timberwolves and Gophers would have to combine to lose 44 consecutive home games over the rest of their respective seasons for the Vikings to have a shot. Even under the most bleak of circumstances, that’s next to impossible to imagine.
Regardless, this might be a fine time to pick up a new team or new hobby to carry you through the bleakness of winter.