You might have gotten up this morning a little disappointed that all of the problems of 2020 didn't just vanish with the turning of the calendar, but rest assured: this year figures to at least get gradually better, particularly from a local sports perspective.
A lot of that improvement will depend on the answers to 10 big questions looming as we get acquainted with this year. Let's dive in and peer into our crystal ball:
1) What will in-person attendance look like in 2021 when and if fans are allowed back in the stands? Minnesota sports fans have been almost exclusively limited to watching their favorite teams on TV since mid-March because of COVID-19.
But with promising vaccine results and a large percentage of the population likely to be inoculated in 2021, the gradual return of fans in the stands is a good possibility.
Twitter is far from a perfect survey tool, but the vast majority of those who responded to a query of mine said they think the Twins — at some point this summer — will be the first local team able to have large crowds. That seems about right to me, with Minnesota United on a similar timetable.
There are obviously no guarantees, though. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.
2) Can the Timberwolves get Karl-Anthony Towns healthy and figure out what they have with their core of players? The Wolves' best player didn't miss a single game the first three seasons of his career. He missed five in his fourth season; last year he missed 29 with two different injuries, and this year he's already been temporarily shelved by a dislocated wrist after appearing in just two games.
The Wolves desperately need to get KAT on the court with D'Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Malik Beasley and other members of their core — if not to make a playoff push this season, then at least to find out how else they need to add to their roster going forward.
3) Will the Vikings' offseason feature major changes or minor retooling? The Vikings are guaranteed to finish with their first losing season since Mike Zimmer's first year as head coach in 2014 no matter what happens in Sunday's finale at Detroit.
What was the primary culprit: A roster that's an odd mix of veterans and young unproven players that lacks talent? Inconsistency at key positions? Injuries? A muddled offseason because of the pandemic? The answer will determine whether there are sweeping changes — or if the Vikings will essentially try again with the same formula in 2021 and hope for better results.
4) Is the debut of Kirill Kaprizov with the Wild going to catapult that team into new territory? Call me a sucker for potential, but I'm more interested in this year's Wild team than I have been in a while — even more so than the years when you could pretty much bank on a top-eight finish in the Western Conference.
The arrival of Kaprizov and his likely pairing with Kevin Fiala could make the Wild legitimately fun to watch — and could foretell better days ahead.
5) Is the Gophers men's hockey team good enough to reach the Frozen Four? At some point this season — perhaps as soon as Sunday when play resumes against Arizona State — the Gophers are going to face some adversity.
For now, they are riding high: A No. 1 ranking and a perfect 8-0 record achieved without trailing for a single second in any of those eight games. Bob Motzko's Gophers have turned a corner. How far around that corner they venture is a question for March — and perhaps April.
6) After a promising start, is the Gophers men's basketball team for real? Richard Pitino's team looks like it has more depth, grit and balance than past versions — attributes that were on display in a flurry of impressive recent victories.
But they will face an unrelenting Big Ten schedule; the Gophers entered the Top 25 at No. 21 on Monday; seven other conference foes are ranked above them. Answering whether they are "for real" can only be achieved with a larger sample size.
7) After a not-so-promising start, can the Gophers women's basketball team turn things around? Lindsay Whalen's third year, on the other hand, is off to a rough start. Minnesota is 1-4, and those four losses have come by an average of 24 points.
Injuries and illness severely limited practice time and player availability early on. Seeing meaningful improvement, starting Sunday at Wisconsin, will tell us a lot where the program is headed.
8) Is this the year the Twins finally win a playoff game? I was in the Yankee Stadium press box the last time the Twins won a postseason game. I was in my late 20s.
Now I'm in my mid-40s, the Twins have lost 18 consecutive playoff games, and before anyone in that organization talks about the World Series they first need to win one game when it matters most. The Twins should still have the roster to compete. But we've also said that countless times in the last 16 years.
9) After coming up just short of playing for championships, can the Lynx and Minnesota United take another step this year? Behind dynamic newcomers — WNBA Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield and Argentine sensation Emanuel Reynoso — the Lynx and United were one step away from competing for championships in 2020.
Even getting back to that spot for either organization would be an accomplishment in 2021, but the talent is there — and hopefully the fans will be, too.
10) Who will be the next breakout Minnesota sports star? When 2020 started, we had no idea Reynoso, Dangerfield or Justin Jefferson — among others — would become such huge parts of the local sports scene with their excellent debut seasons. Who will be a breakout star in 2021?
Kaprizov is an obvious candidate, as is whomever the Vikings take with their first-round pick. Perhaps the Wolves' Anthony Edwards … or the Twins' Alex Kirilloff.
Or maybe the player who will take Minnesota by storm isn't even on our radar yet. After all, that's the best part about a new year: We don't know what's going to happen, and nothing bad has happened yet.