The Fourth of July fireworks came without the grand payoff — a parade.
That's the Wild's disappointing reality, and in it is a lesson for the Twin Cities sports market: Don't be scared to go for it, even if the outcome fails to deliver the dream envisioned.
The Wild executed an awkward divorce from Zach Parise and Ryan Suter this week. One was inevitable, the other a stunner. That neither cornerstone player made it to the end of matching 13-year, $98 million contracts before being shooed away unceremoniously raises the question of whether the gamble was all worth it. The answer is easy.
Heck yes. Unequivocally yes.
Visions of Stanley Cup parades that were hatched back on July 4, 2012, never materialized. The Wild never really came close to being a legitimate Cup contender in the Parise-Suter Era. If the goal of any professional sports organization is to win championships, then the Wild's experiment failed solely by that black-and-white measure.
Yet failing to win Cups doesn't mean owner Craig Leipold erred by signing those two prized free agents in the boldest move in team history. Leipold acted precisely how any fan or observer of a team should want an owner or general manager to run the operation: Identify an opportunity to do something big — something that takes guts and probably a lot of money – and let 'er rip.
If the results ultimately don't reward the investment, then a risk of being ambitious came to be. It's hard to know if this risk paid off. No Stanley Cup, true, but the organization became relevant with Parise and Suter as a regular playoff entrant, a period that reinvigorated its fan base.
Financial risks coupled with an endless amount of data available nowadays can paralyze decision-makers. Nobody wants to be wrong, especially when massive contracts are involved.
Naturally, there are some constraints involved. Teams can't just throw cash around willy-nilly without having a plan. But knowing when to strike and then acting on it signals a true desire to win, which should be a trade-off in asking for fans' emotional and financial investment.
In 2009, the Vikings had a good team but wanted more. They signed Brett Favre to be the final piece to a championship team. Emotional scars remain for fans over how that ended, but the team made the right call and did so again the following year when Favre had to be dragged out of Mississippi by three teammates to run it back.
It is easy to second-guess everything about the nightmarish 2010 season, but the Vikings came this close the first time and would have been foolish not to give it one more shot. Hindsight is undefeated.
The current view of this market brings the conversation into focus. Wild GM Bill Guerin clearly has no qualms about shaking things up with bold moves that might be unpopular with fans. He has a plan and he has conviction, and he's willing to put his neck on the line in chasing a championship. I admire that.
Timberwolves President Gersson Rosas, who already has reconstructed his roster once, reportedly is having trade talks with Philadelphia about Ben Simmons. That would qualify as a blockbuster move that brings high risk given Simmons' shooting issues, but Rosas has been ultra-aggressive in trying to pull his franchise out of despair.
Now the Twins have decisions to make on two prominent players, Jose Berrios and Byron Buxton. Both are set to become free agents after next season and will want and command big paydays. If the Twins decide to trade either this month or this offseason, settle in for a rebuilding job. That's not an appealing plan.
Berrios' situation is more straightforward. They should sign their best pitcher to an extension.
Buxton's case is messy, and could lead to the most complicated contract negotiations in recent memory. Buxton is an MVP-caliber talent when healthy, yet he's rarely healthy for long stretches. I've waffled on what to do, but unloading a player of Buxton's talent – even knowing his lengthy injury history – just seems self-defeating. Find a deal that keeps him here.
Risk is always an inescapable truth for teams willing to pursue a big payoff.