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Zulgad: Could Vikings be first to end drought for Minnesota’s four major men’s teams?

By Judd Zulgad

The Washington Capitals held their Stanley Cup parade on Tuesday, celebrating that area’s first championship in one of the four major men’s professional sports since the Redskins won the Super Bowl in January 1992 in the Metrodome.

Washington and Minnesota had been close when it came to championship droughts, but the Twin Cities now hold a comfortable, or uncomfortable, lead on every other area that has an NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL team.

The last time one of these titles was celebrated in Minnesota was when the Twins won the World Series in 1991. Arizona is now second on that list, having not won a championship since the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees in the 2001 World Series.

So when will one of Minnesota’s teams, not named the Lynx, break through? Here’s one attempt to answer that question with the teams ranked in order of best to least chance to win a championship.

Vikings

If any franchise in Minnesota knows all about heartbreak it’s the Vikings. They are 0-4 in Super Bowls but haven’t reached one since the 1976 season. Since then, the Vikings are 0-6 in NFC Championship Games, including a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC title game last season.

That came after the Vikings went 13-3 in the regular season and beat New Orleans with a miracle finish on Case Keenum’s pass to Stefon Diggs that enabled Minnesota to advance in its first playoff game. The Vikings featured one of the NFL’s best defenses and a much-improved offense.

The Vikings replaced Keenum this past offseason with free agent Kirk Cousins and the expectation is this team will be even better offensively. The defense should remain one of the best in the game.

That means the Vikings will enter the 2018 season near the top of the list of favorites to win a Super Bowl. Could Minnesota’s drought end as early as Feb. 3, 2019 in Atlanta? If it does, the entire state might shut down for the parade.

Twins

The fact that Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano have spent this season either injured or looking like one-time top prospects who are going to be busts definitely has quieted some of the enthusiasm that surrounded this franchise a year ago when it made a surprising run to the American League wild card game.

But all hope is not lost when it comes to the future of this franchise.

The Twins have some quality young talent among their starting pitchers, including Jose Berrios and Fernando Romero, and left fielder Eddie Rosario has emerged as a potential All-Star. Chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine are developing a promising farm system and the Twins should have a significant amount of payroll flexibility this offseason with several players, including Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer, coming off the books.

This season has been a disappointment but there are indications the Twins are headed in the right direction. That will be especially true if Buxton and/or Sano get their act together.

Wild

There was a time not long ago when it felt as if the Wild might have a playoff run in them and they might even have been atop this list. But one can only watch so many early playoff exits before their enthusiasm dwindles and thus the Wild have dropped to third on this list.

Those early playoff exits are why general manager Chuck Fletcher was shown the door this spring by owner Craig Leipold following an opening-round loss to Winnipeg.

Paul Fenton, who had been assistant GM in Nashville, has taken over for Fletcher and so far he and Leipold are trying to sell fans on the fact that the Wild only need a few tweaks to take another step.

That’s debatable but what is clear is that making a playoff run in the NHL isn’t impossible, especially if your goaltender gets hot.

Fenton is likely going to end up making more than a tweak to this roster, and it’s unclear if current coach Bruce Boudreau will be around long term, but if Fenton can make the type of moves that he saw David Poile pull off in Nashville there again could be hope for the Wild.

Timberwolves

The Wolves ended a 13-season playoff drought in 2017-18 before being bounced by the Houston Rockets in the first round. While winning 47 games this season, or 16 more than they did in Tom Thibodeau’s first year as coach and president of basketball operations, was an accomplishment there are a few things working against the Wolves.

The most important is that while the Wolves should be a playoff team for the next few seasons, they aren’t anywhere near the class of NBA champion Golden State or Houston. If LeBron James signs with the Los Angeles Lakers, life is going to become that much more difficult for Thibodeau’s team.

The other is that the Wolves need to become far better both defensively and shooting three-pointers and Andrew Wiggins, who will begin a max contract in 2018-19, appears to be regressing as a player. Karl-Anthony Towns has the ability to become a superstar, and veteran Jimmy Butler is an established star. But Butler had issues staying healthy this past season and with the way he plays the game there have to be questions about when he might begin to break down.

Meanwhile, Thibodeau’s style of coaching makes one question how long he will remain in this job before players begin to tune him out. Thibodeau wants to win at a high level right now, but he doesn’t currently have a team that can do it.

That means the Lynx’s banners are likely to remain the only ones hanging from the Target Center rafters for years to come.

The post Zulgad: Could Vikings be first to end drought for Minnesota’s four major men’s teams? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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