The Vikings' dominance, the Wolves' promise, the Wild's hope and the Twins' optimism as of last March have all vanished, and Gopher football has yet to beat a competent team while building a 7-2 record.
Who surges first?
-The Vikings remain the best bet. With a few tweaks to their offense they should beat Detroit today and be 6-2 at the halfway point, from which point only a collapse would keep them from the playoffs. I believe it was time for Norv Turner to go and the team will be better with Pat Shurmur running the offense. Prediction: Vikings finish 11-5, which was where I thought they'd be before they raised expectations with their 5-0 start.
-The start of the Wolves' season has been strange in that the reasons for their optimism are still evident. Their young talent is, for the most part, delivering. What is happening is that the hidden part of NBA success - playing with togetherness and intelligence - is lagging with this team. As ugly as it has been, I still believe Thibodeau and a young group of players will figure it out and be a 40-plus win team.
-The Twins will introduce their new front office on Monday. I was speaking with a former Twins employee the other day who lamented the moment when the team replaced Terry Ryan with Bill Smith.
Which reminded me of one of the most important things to remember about pro sports: Winning isn't always good, and losing isn't always bad. Winning can lead an organization to self-destructive overconfidence, and losing can re-set a program.
The Twins won so many games under Terry Ryan in the '90s that they felt compelled to hire from within when he retired. Smith was his assistant, and therefore the easy choice. But Smith was not a personnel expert or a leader. So the organization went south under Smith, and because Terry Ryan had won all of those games, he was asked to take over with the team in turmoil.
So, it turns out, the Twins would have been better off if Ryan had left the first time when the team was losing, so ownership would have looked for fresh answers.
I don't know if the Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are exactly the right hires. No one knows. But they're the right kinds of hires.
-The Minnesota Wild are hanging in without Zach Parise, Devan Dubnyk has been outstanding and Bruce Boudreau's intense forechecking system has led to scoring from unexpected sources. But are they good enough to sustain success?
I think Boudreau is one of the best coaches in the game and will keep them competitive. But their longstanding problems remain: They don't have high-end skill players. Nothing will come easily to this team.
-Gophers football has the best winning percentage of these teams, yet might be the most fragile. The Gophers have yet to beat a decent team, and now have to face real compettiion. I'm not saying they won't win their remaining games; I'm saying they haven't done anything to inspire confidence that they can beat a good team. Other than at running back, where are they outstanding?
New addition to MNSPN.COM: Marcus Fuller's One-and-Done Basketball Show, emphasizing Gopher and prep hoops. We're also running the Minnesota Sports Fan Podcast, as well as our other shows: Wolves with Krawczynski, Twins with Smalley, Wild with Russo, Vikings with VikingUpdate publisher Tim Yotter and my interview/commentary show, SouhanUncensored.
Check 'em out.