April isn’t over yet, and Minnesota’s major sports scene is in a rut.
The Wild’s season is over, and Minnesota hockey fans barely got a chance to get comfortable on their couch watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Timberwolves finished a disappointing season under first-year coach Tom Thibodeau, missing the playoffs yet again. That’s 13 straight years without postseason basketball.
The Twins opened the 2017 season by sweeping the Kansas City Royals and went 7-4 in their first 11 games. But they’ve regressed to the mean after their most recent home stand and are down to fourth in the American League Central Division at 8-10. The NFL Draft is Thursday, and the Vikings don’t have a pick, at least year.
Here are four reasons Minnesota sports stink right now, and it may not change any time soon.
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) April 22, 2017
Minnesota Wild Early Playoff Exit
We wouldn’t blame Mike Yeo if he left Xcel Energy Center Saturday night with a snarky grin on his face. Fired as Minnesota Wild head coach a year ago, he returned with the St. Louis Blues in the playoffs and promptly beat the Wild 4-1. We talk about having home ice in the playoffs as if it’s an advantage. The Wild had three home games, and lost them all.
The Blues got physical, mucked up the game and largely wouldn’t let the Wild get in front of Jake Allen, who played mostly outstanding in the series. When they did get near the net, they got lit up like they were in a boxing ring. The Wild didn’t adjust to what the Blues did defensively in the series, and it cost them their season.
That’s now five straight seasons where the Wild haven’t gotten any farther than the second round of the NHL Playoffs. They’re 3-12 in their last 15 playoff games. That’s not getting it done for a place that considers itself the State of Hockey.
Timberwolves Miss Playoffs… AGAIN
The Timberwolves still haven’t recovered from passing on Steph Curry in the NBA Draft not once, but TWICE. But it was all supposed to change when Glen Taylor brought in Tom Thibodeau to be the head coach and president of basketball operations. Thibodeau has playoff credibility, and his teams play great defense. So let’s just go ahead and forget about this season, hope that it was an anomaly.
Except, wait. Most Timberwolves fans don’t know anything different. So it can’t be an anomaly. The Timberwolves finished the season 31-51, a whopping two wins better than last year. To make matters worse, they were 13th in the Western Conference and nine wins out of even contending for the last playoff spot. They weren’t even sniffing the postseason, not even in the ballpark.
Ricky Rubio still can’t shoot consistently, there is still plenty of issues with team defensive communication, Shabazz Muhammad still takes some terrible shots and Tyus Jones isn’t on the court enough. It’s a safe bet the team will look at lot different next year, because it has to. You can’t miss the playoffs 13 straight years and not make changes. After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.
Twins Hit Skid After Promising Start
Speaking of insanity, the Minnesota Twins had baseball fans jumping on the bandwagon after sweeping their opening series and winning seven of their first 11 games. The Twins entered a 10-game home stand 6-3, and promptly went 2-7 with one game rained out. Over that stretch, they were out-scored 46-27. Yes, the Twins have a new general manager and a new chief of baseball operations. But they lost 103 games last year, and rarely do you go from the worst record in baseball to winning a division title or making the playoffs.
The Twins are fourth in the AL Central at 9-10 after beating the Texas Rangers Monday night and end April with five more road games. There are leaks everywhere after a promising start. Let’s give a golf clap to Byron Buxton, who is hitting over .100 after starting the season with more strikeouts than anything else. He still has 27 of them in 55 at-bats. The pitching has turned inconsistent after a great start. Kyle Gibson is a mess, and the bullpen has been shaky lately. The defense has also been disappointing, led by Danny Santana being a disaster in the outfield.
The good news: The Twins have played 19 games, so it’s early. The bad news: It’s too early to tell if this year’s product will be any better than the one that largely embarrassed itself on the field last year.
Vikings Traded Away First-Round Draft Pick
The first round of the NFL Draft is Thursday night, but ask most Vikings fans and they probably aren’t even aware. There is little to no buzz for Minnesota fans when it comes to this year’s NFL Draft. That’s what happens when you don’t have a first-round pick.
The Vikings traded away that pick last year for Sam Bradford after Teddy Bridgewater’s leg blew up in a non-contact drill with a week to go before the regular season. They could move back into the first round on Thursday, but Rick Spielman likes draft picks and having a lot of them. And first round picks come with a hefty price on draft night.
The trade for Bradford was the right move at the time, and a move they had to make. The Vikings traded that pick to the Eagles for Bradford, hoping that an established quarterback with a potentially elite defense could get them deep in the playoffs. The reality was an 8-8 season marred by injuries, and not even Mike Zimmer could escape the bug. He missed one game with a detached retina.
When the Vikings do pick, it’ll be tough to get excited. Expect a lot offensive linemen that we’ve never heard of after they nearly got Bradford killed in a few games last year. After all, Minnesota hosts the 2018 Super Bowl, and the Vikings have to find a way to keep Bradford upright.
For now, Minnesota sports fans can embrace this motto: “There’s always next year.” After all, we’ve been doing it for decades. It’s what we know.