It gets dark early these days, and so it’s natural that our thoughts turn to the relative deep, dark winters of our sports teams. Minnesota’s pro squads span the gamut these days, from the entertaining to the deeply distressing. But which of them is the most forlorn? A ranking, in order of least to most despondent:
7. Minnesota Timberwolves
I’m as confused as you, but I guess any franchise can have a bad two decades, and then suddenly emerge.
For the first time in twenty years, it is fun to watch the Timberwolves. No matter who they play, they’re competitive; even when they play top teams, it’s an interesting challenge to see how good the squad really is, rather than a lobbing a Molotov cocktail into a pile of gasoline cans.
The best metaphor I can come up with is this one. I am not a good golfer, but I have played with good golfers, ones that are good enough that they enjoy the challenge of testing themselves - playing the back tees, or seeking out the type of difficult, classy courses where you are not allowed to drive your cart onto the green, and tee times are required, and there are no barber poles marking invisible mid-course barriers.
You put a golfer like me on the back tees on such a course, and it’s a three-alarm fire from the very first drive. You put a good golfer in the same place, and it’s simply an interesting challenge. The Wolves are comfortable playing from the back tees now.
6. Minnesota Vikings
It is a testament to this franchise that somehow they are this low in the rankings. Their starting quarterback ripped his Achilles, they ran out of backup quarterbacks, and they had to trade for another career backup quarterback, one who was on a practice squad as recently as last year. Their best player hurt his hamstring and hasn’t played since, and also hasn’t signed a contract extension beyond this season. They jerked their best defensive player around to the point that he has a 0% chance of signing another contract after this year. They also started the year 0-3 and 1-4.
How is this team possibly 6-5? How is Josh Dobbs so amazingly popular? How have they pieced together six wins out of Jordan Addison, their much-maligned offensive line and defense, and the desperately injured husk of T.J. Hockenson, who couldn’t even catch until mid-October?
What, in short, is this franchise, other than the exact opposite of the Vikings for the rest of my lifetime? How have the Purple, against all odds, done this many things right?
5. PWHL Minnesota
This isn’t fair, probably, because they haven’t even taken the ice yet. But the PWHL has yet to announce the names of the teams, where the teams will play, or what the schedule is, even though the season reportedly is going to start about six weeks from today.
If you want to know how the off-ice stuff is going: the league’s website doesn’t work, and hasn’t worked for a week.
I’ve already seen PWHL sources attempting to soften up the ground on this season by saying, “Well, it would have been better if we had waited a year and started in 2025,” even though they were the ones who chose to announce the league early and destroy everything that already existed in women’s hockey. You break it, you buy it.
Oh, and I know that coming up with “brands” for the new teams must be exhausting work, but we all know that you could put five hockey fans and a graphic designer in a conference room for a morning and an afternoon, and they’ll come up with something that’s at least as good as whatever the PWHL will eventually announce.
4. Minnesota Twins
They made the playoffs and ended the team’s postseason losing streak, and they have a bunch of fun young players, led by Royce Lewis. But they also have already said that they’re not going to spend any money at all next year; their highest-paid player, Carlos Correa, was hurt all season and got paid about a million bucks per double play grounded into; and they set a big-league record for strikeouts and have absolutely no plans to stop striking out in the future.
3. Minnesota Lynx
The Lynx have one really good player, Napheesa Collier. They have one good complementary player, Kayla McBride. They have two rookies, Diamond Miller and Dorka Juhász, who need to make huge strides quickly. And they have a yawning chasm between them and the top of the WNBA, one that they don’t have a top draft pick to help close, even in what’s supposed to be an exceptionally deep 2024 draft.
2. Minnesota United FC
The Loons have no coach. They were determined to modernize their sporting structure, by hiring a “chief soccer officer” to oversee player acquisition and set the direction for the team, and then they hired Khaled El-Ahmed, who’s under contract with Barnsley FC and won’t be able to do anything of the sort until whenever Barnsley replaces him.
And so now the Loons have to make all of their offseason player decisions without a coach and without their new technical director. El-Ahmed won’t be able to hire the new coach on his own unless Barnsley decides to let him go for no reason. And while he’s been a scout in North America, he’s never worked directly in an MLS front office, which means he’s got a learning curve there too.
The Loons fired coach Adrian Heath with two games to go in the season and their playoff chances still hanging in the balance. Now they seem to have taken that early start on the offseason and thrown it away; somehow, they’re already behind schedule for next year.
1. Minnesota Wild
The Wild have paid Kirill Kaprizov and Matt Boldy $3.3 million dollars thus far this year, for which they have received exactly two even-strength goals. The two combined have been outscored by defenseman Jake Middleton at 5-on-5.
On the other end of the ice, Filip Gustavsson - having signed a new three-year contract - is the fourth-worst goalie in the NHL this year, according to the numbers at MoneyPuck.com. Not to be outdone, Marc-Andre Fleury is the worst goalie in the league.
Everyone on the team is signed for at least this year and next year, except for two guys the team rescued off of Tampa Bay’s scrap heap, and Brandon Duhaime. The team has $14.7 million of its cap space allocated to Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, who - looking at it in the best possible light - are only one even-strength goal apiece behind Boldy and Kaprizov.
The Wild have lost five games in a row and are 5-12 this year, ignoring any loser points. Put another way, they’re currently on a 47-win pace, for a baseball season, and even the Oakland Athletics won 50 games this year.
It’s hard to imagine a Minnesota squad that’s quite this forlorn. They have been bad, for almost a quarter of a season now, and their only hope of getting better is to have Bill Guerin and Dean Evason take turns yelling at everyone until they improve.