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In the Zone: The state of Minnesota pro sports teams

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In the Zone Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

The sports world this past week was as dead as the upcoming Zombie Apocalypse, so it was a good time to take the pulse of the Minnesota teams which inhabit -- or will inhabit -- some of the nicest stadiums in the nation.

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With the Vikings finally getting their decade-long stadium push passed by our state's stubborn legislature, now pretty much all the professional teams inside the border of Minnesota will have an upper-class facility to play in.

So on that note, let's start with the state's current NFL franchise and the state of the Minnesota Vikings.

The big news coming out from the longship this offseason was all about the stadium push, and that's a good thing.

It wasn't about Favre-Mania, Love Boat scandals and the hiring/firing of a new coaching staff.

And this storyline ended with a positive outcome, with the passage of a nearly billion-dollar stadium bill.

Now, the focus will shift back to the team come July 26, when the 2012 team gathers for the first time down in Mankato for training camp.

And the focal word is "new."

Finally accepting the fact that they are in a rebuilding phase, the Viking brass started from the ground up and added plenty of youth and speed, either through free agency or the draft.

They still have some solid foundations to build on in Jared Allen, Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin.

Although the future success of second-year QB Christian Ponder is still murky and unknown, the Vikes have started to build some walls around him with the No. 4 overall pick, left tackle Matt Kalil.

But the theme of the Vikes' draft this year was speed. First, the team cut lots of gray hairs and added youth.

But flight of feet was needed throughout the lineup, just to try and keep up with the division foes Green Bay and Detroit (no, not forgetting Chicago, because they still are not considered an elite speed team).

Added in the speed department include wide receivers Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright (times as the fastest WR in the draft) and Greg Childs (near 4.4 time).

Those alone at least is a threat for Ponder to help stretch the field, something they did not have last year, at all.

The secondary also became faster, with the addition of safety Harrison Smith (top speedster at his position in the draft) and cornerback Josh Robinson (timed as fastest CB in the draft).

Overall, the Vikings will be faster and lots younger, which was needed in the worst way. If a 7-9 or 8-8 record can be posted this season, that bodes very well for a young team coming together under a second-year quarterback.

Momentum meter (scale 1-10): Pointing up, from a 2 to a 4.5, big reason is passage of new stadium. Can bump up to 5.5 if Vikes tease a .500 record.

Wild ice free agent market

Yes, Minnesota can be considered the State of Hockey, but let's face it, the Wild haven't exactly emboldened that title very well the last several years.

But with the signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter that tag could start ringing true in the near future.

No other Minnesota franchise has made that bold of a move in free agency, besides maybe the Brett Favre saga the Vikings underwent a few years ago.

But the big difference with the Wild's coup, was gaining not one, but two, franchise-like players who are still playing to their prime.

Interest was starting to wane in the Wild with year after year of missing the playoffs and very stagnant play inside a still very modern and viable Xcel Energy Center.

The injection of Parise and Suter has already been felt, with over 2,000 new season ticket holders climbing aboard.

Does the signing immediately put the Wild in the playoffs?

Nope, but the momentum and talented created by these two players is exactly what this Minnesota team needed.

The Wild started to create some interest with a strong first half, but lost some of their luster with a horrible second half of the season.

Add in the fact, both grew up either in Minnesota (Parise) or in the Midwest (Suter), shows the homegrown roots will be vital in keeping this surging team's momentum going.

Momentum meter: Surging high, from a 3 to a 7.5 (will keep going up if the team starts climbing the standings throughout the regular season).

Basketball making a rebound

Let's face it, the ladies' Minnesota Lynx have been 100-percent more interesting than the higher-profile men's Timberwolves for the last couple of years.

The Lynx won Minnesota's first pro title since 1991 and are heavy favorites to repeat as WNBA's best after starting the season for a league record 10-0.

They have went through their slump, but gained back a few wins and are heading into the five-week Olympic break with the conference-best 15-4 record.

The Lynx are also attracting crowds up to 15,000 plus, so it should be highlighted that Minnesota fans are taking notice of these championship-caliber players, such as Maya Moore, homegrown Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson and Taj McWilliams-Franklin.

It's an All-Star lineup which is overshadowing the T-Wolves roster...so far.

The Wolves' efforts to start surrounding an impatient Kevin Love are still incomplete. But give the Wolves' brass some credit, they are trying.

They have added some top shooters in Brandon Roy (if his knees can handle it) and Chase Buddinger. These are two reliable perimeter shooters, who will help make Love's inside game a lot less crowded.

Point guard Ricky Rubio is a superstar in the making and if his knee rehabs well, the T-Wolves will be at least climbing the first step to the door of the playoffs.

The momentum meter will be incomplete as of now, until they hear word of if they land Nicolas Batum. Their momentum meter did take a smidge bump up when they landed top coach Rick Adelman.

Momentum meter: Almost a playoff qualifier before Rubio's knee injury led to an improvement of 1.5 to 4. It will go up to 5 if Batum becomes a T-Wolf.

Lynx: The meter may top out if they repeat as WNBA champions, but will fans of Minnesota notice how big of an accomplishment it will be?

Target Field still a hit, even though Twins are not

Staying stagnant probably would be a good thing for the Twins, but their first-half 36-49 record and 11 games back in the worst division in baseball is still on the downswing.

After finishing last, and the second-to-last worst record in baseball last year, the team still isn't looking like it's on the road to improvement.

In the past, the Twins could offer hope with one of the strongest minor league systems in the majors, but currently, they are also rebuilding that.

They have a run differential of 87, which is second to last in the majors, while being No. 29 in ERA with a 4.86.

The usual strong points of the squad are now at best, average. The defense is ranked No. 13 in errors committed with 52 and No. 12 in fielding percentage at .984.

But the immediate future does look bleak, with a limited number of minor leaguers ready to contribute on the major league level.

Pitching is a huge concern, as GM Terry Ryan proved by selecting a bevy of pitchers in the draft. But none of those will be heard from inside Target Field for at least another 3-4 years.

The Twins are going to be hamstrung by Joe Mauer's contract, as well, although he is starting to lift his batting average to nice heights at .326.

It's time to strip the roster and start from the bottom up, first by rebuilding a weak farm system.

The days of the 1990's will be revisited, but the Twins will at least have the attraction of Target Field to keep revenue up.

A couple of other bright spots which keep the momentum meter ticking have been free agent addition Josh Willingham and youngster Trevor Plouffe.

Willingham has a co-team-high 19 homers and 60 RBIs, while Plouffe is becoming a viable hitter with 19 home runs and a .253 average.

The hope is Ryan can make some more magical trades of veterans for young up-and-comers.

But until that is proven or done, enjoy the great baseball atmosphere of one of MLB's best stadiums, just don't expect a lot of wins as of now.

Momentum meter: No movement from 2011. It will go down with another 100-loss season, otherwise stays at three, with the biggest reason being Target Field.

(Follow Brian Wierima on Twitter at DLSportsGuy.)

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