New Year's hopes for Minnesota sports teams in 2020

2019 was a year filled with excitement and disappointment, but what will 2020 bring?
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Kirk Cousins

Each year is a new canvas for everyone to paint their story. OK, that's a little bit of a cliche, but for Minnesota sports fans it's pretty much the only thing they have left to cling to.

In 2019, we saw the Twins capture their first division title since the beginning of the decade. We also saw the Vikings put together some strong performances and now they're in the playoffs. Napheesa Collier looks like the next great WNBA star for the Lynx. The Wild completely face-planted to start the season, but have been one of the best teams in the NHL since November and the Timberwolves...well Karl-Anthony Towns hasn't asked to be traded (yet)!

There was a lot going on for our local sports teams, but there are even more possibilities as we begin 2020. So what are some things that Minnesota fans hope happen for their teams in the new year? Fortunately, we have you covered.

Minnesota Vikings: Win the big game

So we always get our hopes up for the Vikings every year, but this year feels a little different. The Vikings were able to make the playoffs in a loaded NFC field, but their 10-6 record (10-5 if you throw out the exhibition-style finale against the Chicago Bears) feels weak because they haven't beaten many teams of significance.

When your strongest victory of the season came against the 9-7 Philadelphia Eagles at home, there are reasons to believe it's just not going to be your year. But as Mike Zimmer said during his press conference this week, "Why not us?"

Throughout the tenure of Zimmer and quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Vikings have seemed to falter when the lights have shined the brightest. (For Zimmer, you can bring up the Minneapolis Miracle victory, which came after blowing a 21-point lead at home.) On Sunday, the Vikings will have a chance to erase that reputation as they face a heavily favored New Orleans Saints team in the bayou.

It's been a long time since the Vikings have had an unexpected run in the playoffs and even that 1987 team was the beneficiary of a strike-shortened season before Darrin Nelson dropped a wide-open touchdown in the NFC Championship Game. If the Vikings can just get one win, they'll be playing with house money and maybe make their fans feel good about themselves.

Minnesota Twins: Win a playoff series

Much like the Vikings, the Twins are in the same boat. When it comes to the regular season, they look like one of the best teams in the American League, crushing Bombas and pounding the rest of the American League Central into submission. When it's time for the playoffs, however, they become the punchline for national analysts everywhere.

The Twins haven't won a playoff series since they took out the Oakland Athletics in a five-game ALDS series in 2002. They haven't won a playoff game since defeating the Yankees in Game 1 of the 2003 ALDS. While most of the players on the roster were in grade school when those happened, the stigma still follows them around with each playoff loss.

So what's the best way to deal with this? By winning a series.

While many of us are still waiting for the Twins to make their "impact pitching" move (and no, Rich Hill and Homer Bailey do not count), they should do whatever it takes to equip this team for a lengthy playoff run. 

They'll have reinforcements waiting in the minor leagues (Alex Kirilloff and Royce Lewis should be knocking on the door in 2020) and with even more depth at the lower levels, maybe they can get that arm to push them over the top.

Minnesota Wild: Get Kirill Kaprizov to Minnesota

We could do the same thing with the Wild that we've done with the Vikings and Twins, but hoping they win a playoff series would be redundant. (Let's face it. We'll take any playoff success we can get in this state.) Heck, even the Wild's dream of hosting the NHL's Winter Classic seem to be coming true (but that won't happen until 2021).

Instead, the Wild need to lure hockey's version of Bigfoot from the wilderness of Russia just in time for the start of next season.

Kirill Kaprizov was a fifth-round pick by the Wild in the 2015 NHL Draft, but has yet to play a shift for the team. While the youngster was offended by his initial draft position, he responded by re-upping with the KHL and turning the league upside down with 92 goals since being drafted by former GM Chuck Fletcher.

The Wild have been starving for a superstar since Marian Gaborik was shipped out of town and while the massive 13-year contracts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter have given them high-end talent, they haven't risen to the same level as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane or Vladamir Tarasenko for rival teams in the Central Division.

Minnesota could make a playoff run this year, but if they really want to get to the next level, they need to get Kaprizov in Minnesota.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Get Karl-Anthony Towns some help

In the past 25 years of Timberwolves basketball, they've had few problems at finding a pillar of the franchise. After drafting Kevin Garnett, the Timberwolves found Kevin Love. After finding Kevin Love, they stumbled into Karl-Anthony Towns to give them another elite talent in the history of this franchise.

Where the Wolves have stumbled, however, is finding a supporting cast that doesn't make them want to get the hell out of Minnesota.

Gersson Rosas attempted to make this happen last summer when he tried to convince D'Angelo Russell to come to Minnesota through sign-and-trade with the Nets. It didn't work, and Russell is now with the Warriors. 

The Timberwolves just wrapped up an 11-game losing streak and with Towns riding the bench with a knee injury for most of it, the remaining pieces have looked like a G League team that can give themselves opportunities but can't make a jump shot.

With free agents unlikely to sign here because they can't take a banana boat sledding, Rosas and his staff have to get creative to get Towns a legitimate tag team partner, otherwise, it could be another wasted opportunity for a cursed franchise.

Gopher Football: A return to the Rose Bowl

2019 was a banner year for the Gopher football program when you consider the last time they won a national championship, there were about half the schools there are in today's FCS subdivision. The Gophers won 10 games in the regular season and seven Big Ten games for the first time in program history. They even hosted ESPN's "College GameDay" for the first time.

Now with the Gophers on the rise under P.J. Fleck, the next challenge is to sustain and build on that success. That would likely lead to the Rose Bowl, a place where the Gophers haven't been since 1961.

The good news is that the Gophers have many of the players that made 2019 a success returning in 2020. With quarterback Tanner Morgan and wide receiver Rashod Bateman leading the way, there could be more good things for Minnesota moving forward.

Minnesota Lynx: A return for Maya Moore

With 2019 also comes the end of the decade and with that, there may be few athletes that were as impactful as Maya Moore was for the Lynx. After being selected with the #1 pick in the 2011 WNBA Draft, Moore has been a four-time WNBA champion and a six-time All-Star.

Despite that, Moore took the 2019 season off to focus on ministry, leaving the Lynx without their superstar. The Lynx were able to weather the storm with an 18-16 record, but that doesn't hide the fact that Moore was fun to watch as she averaged 18 points per game and made the All-Star team the last time she was on the court.

Even at age 31, the Lynx would love to have Moore back (who signed a contract shortly before announcing she would take 2019 off) and while it may not push them back into contention for a fifth WNBA title, it should at least make them more competitive.

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