Starting in the Year 2000, there were five Minnesota professional sports teams playing in the top league in the United States: The Lynx (debuted in 1999), Wild (debuted in 2000), Timberwolves (debuted in 1989), Vikings and Twins (both debuted in 1961).
From 1967 until the Timberwolves debuted, it was just the Vikings, Twins and departed North Stars. Those three franchises made the playoffs in the same season twice: 1969 and 1970. For a few years before the North Stars bolted for Dallas, there were four major pro teams. There was no chance they all reached the playoffs in the same year since the Stars were gone (1993) before the Wolves made the postseason for the first time.
The additions of the Wild and Lynx gave Minneapolis-St. Paul five major teams — four in the longstanding top major men’s leagues and one in the WNBA.
Those five teams have never made the playoffs in the same year — defined here as any five total consecutive seasons, since the NBA and NHL span two calendar years. Even with the benefit of that doubt, allowing for bookends on either end from the Wolves or Wild (though both have to be from the same season since I’m making the rules), it has never happened.
The closest it did — and this is legitimately close — was 2003. The calendar year started with the Timberwolves and Wild both making the playoffs. The Wolves lost in the first round to the Lakers, while the Wild made it to the Western Conference finals before bowing out to Anaheim.
That summer, the Lynx made it to the postseason for the first time in franchise history, losing in the conference semifinals. The Twins kept the party going, winning their second consecutive division title. When the Vikings started 6-0, it seemed like a cinch that all five would do it. Then the Vikings went 3-7 in their last 10, missing the playoffs on Nate Poole’s miracle 4th down catch on the final play of a supremely frustrating season.
A year later, four of the five made the playoffs, too: Wolves, Lynx, Twins and Vikings. The Wild missed badly, though, finishing last in its division.
Since then, it’s been … yeah, not so good. The Wolves haven’t made the playoffs at all since 2004. No more than three of the five teams have made the playoffs in any year. Plenty of times, it’s been fewer than that (hello, 2011, when just the Lynx made it).
This could be the year that all changes. We’re already three-fifths of the way there, with the Lynx winning the 2017 WNBA title, the Twins making the MLB playoffs as a wild card and the Vikings winning their division.
The Timberwolves finally have their collective act together, sitting now at 27-16 after back-to-back impressive wins over Cleveland Oklahoma City. Five Thirty Eight has them as the fourth-strongest team in the entire NBA right now, with a better than 99 percent chance of making the playoffs.
The more tenuous proposition is the Wild. After five straight playoff appearances, the Wild is in serious scramble mode. That said, if the season ended right this minute, Minnesota would be the second wild card and get a berth. Hockey Reference gives them a 40 percent chance of making the playoffs based on simulations of the rest of the year.
But can Hockey Reference simulate heart — and the will to win that can only come from being the fifth of local teams to make the playoffs?
I don’t think so.
The asterisk in the whole premise, of course, is that Minnesota United joined the party this year in Major League Soccer and most definitely did not make the playoffs.
If you insist the Loons have to be in the mix and that all six now have to count for a clean sweep, as usual we’ll have to be content to wait until next year.