What Minnesota pro team will be next to break its championship drought?

Minnesota has, by my count, six major professional sports teams: the Vikings, Twins, Wild, Wolves, Lynx and Minnesota United. The word “major” is subjective, but as a baseline (to me) it means that the league to which those teams belong must be the top pro league in the United States and that its athletes must be able to make a living solely by playing in that league.

When it comes to winning championships, the ledger is lopsided. The Lynx have won four of them in the last decade — 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017.

The Vikings, Wild, Wolves and United have never won a Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, NBA title or MLS Cup (granted, some have been trying for a half-century longer than others).

The Twins have not won a World Series in 29 years.

So the question, as it is framed in the headline, pertains to five teams, excluding the Lynx. As a team that has won several championships recently, they do not have a drought.

If the question was simply which of those six teams is most likely to win a championship next, the Lynx would be the answer at pretty much every point for the last decade, including now.

They have evolved into the Spurs of the WNBA — not that an NBA comparison is necessary — by winning championships and somehow seamlessly turning over almost all the major pieces from their title-winning rosters and still remaining competitive enough to reach the league semifinals this year.

Head coach/GM Cheryl Reeve drafted back-to-back rookies of the year with the No. 6 pick (Napheesa Collier) and a second-round pick (Crystal Dangerfield), a rarity in the WNBA. By comparison: of the five rookies of the year from 2014-18, four of them were No. 1 overall picks and the other was No. 4. Usually to get a team-altering talent, a team needs to pick higher than the slots from which the Lynx have chosen.

So please be advised: The Lynx are excluded from the rest of the conversation not out of negligence but because their dominance would make it an unfair fight. If you would prefer to think of the rest of the teams as 2-6 in this battle, though, that’s fine by me.

That said: When it comes to the likelihood of either winning a first-ever championship or breaking a nearly three-decade streak of not winning a championship, here is how I would rate the likelihood of Minnesota pro teams being the first to get it done in order of most to least.

1 Twins: It’s easy to get bogged down by 18 consecutive playoff games lost. I get it. But this is still the best team of the five in this comparison by a pretty big margin. The Twins are set up for at least a few more playoff trips in the next handful of years, and if they ever finally win a playoff game (and maybe add just one more really dominant starting pitcher) the dam could break and a title could be won.

2 Minnesota United: MLS is unpredictable. The Loons made it to the semifinals of the MLS is Back tournament earlier this year and are on track for a second consecutive playoff berth this year. Soccer is like hockey in that a team can be severely outplayed and still win a playoff game, bringing a level of volatility to the postseason.

3 Wild: To win in the playoffs, it sure helps to have a dominant top line and great goaltending. The Wild doesn’t have either of those things yet, but you can see the potential with the arrival of Kirill Kaprizov, the ascent of Kevin Fiala and the promise of Kaapo Kahkonen. You have to squint to see it, and it’s not happening next season, but this could be a dangerous team in 2-3 years.

4 Vikings: Two months ago, the Vikings would have been at least one place higher on this list. But they are in an unenviable position now: Looking like they guessed wrong about the talent on their roster, getting older at key positions and locked into an expensive quarterback who is better suited to be a complementary piece than one who elevates a team. Unless players chosen in the last three drafts get a lot better in a hurry, this could be an ugly next few years.

5 Timberwolves: With Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and the No. 1 pick in next month’s draft, Minnesota has some pieces to be competitive. But we are nowhere near seeing how they all fit together — and how they stack up in what figures to be a very tough Western Conference for years to come — so there’s no reason to think a championship is worth discussing any time soon.

What’s interesting is I posed this question on Twitter recently. I’ll share some of the funniest/most interesting responses in a moment, but first here is a tally from the 48 people who answered the question directly and ranked the teams 1-5. This is an average of the “place” you put each of the five teams:

1 Twins: 27 first-place votes out of 48. All but five votes were either first or second, and no last place votes. Average place of all 48 votes — 1.56.

2 Loons: 16 first place votes. No last place votes, but at least five votes in all places between 1-4. Average place of all 48 votes — 2.13.

3 Wild: 3 first place votes. Huge variance, with at least three votes in all five spots. Average place of all 48 votes — 3.15.

4 Vikings: 2 first place votes. Like the Wild, a huge variance with votes in all five spots but most in the 3-4 range. Average place of all 48 votes — 3.46.

5 Timberwolves: 0 first place votes. 38 out of the 48 last place votes. Average place of all 48 votes: 4.69.

So I guess … I agree with you! Then again, some of you were a little extreme. Let’s leave exit with some of those responses:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *