Vikings set to name offensive coordinator, the Vikings “way-too-early” ranking for 2021 and a challenge the Wild soon will be facing.
- Item: The Vikings reportedly will name Klint Kubiak as their offensive coordinator, replacing his father, Gary.
- Reaction: Kubiak, who will turn 34 on Feb. 17, will be the Vikings’ sixth offensive coordinator in seven years (Norv Turner, Pat Shurmur, John DeFilippo, Kevin Stefanski, Gary Kubiak) and the fourth in four seasons with Kirk Cousins at quarterback. Kubiak, however, will keep the same scheme his dad introduced in 2019 when he came on board as an assistant head coach and offensive adviser to work with Stefanski. That means the Vikings likely will continue to rely on running back Dalvin Cook to be the central part of the offense and that Kubiak will attempt to keep Cousins in his comfort zone. It’s possible that adjustments could be made to showcase standout wide receiver Justin Jefferson more in his second season, but Zimmer’s reliance on running the ball isn’t likely to change under the younger Kubiak. This is a big promotion for Klint, who had been the Vikings’ quarterbacks coach the past two seasons. It won’t be surprising if Zimmer hires a veteran offensive coach to help assist Kubiak, just as he hired Gary Kubiak to help Stefanski (then 37) in his first full season calling plays.
- Item: The Vikings are 16th in ESPN’s “way-too-early” NFL power rankings for 2021. The rankings were voted on by a panel of more than 80 writers, editors and television personalities. The top five are Kansas City, Buffalo, Green Bay, Tampa Bay and the Los Angeles Rams. As for the rest of the NFC North, the Bears are 24th and the Lions are 30th.
- Reaction: The only sub-.500 team from 2020 that is ahead of the Vikings is No. 9 San Francisco (6-10), so this seems like a fair spot for a 7-9 club. But the fun thing about this league is there are big surprises every year when it comes to teams that unexpectedly make substantial improvements and others that plummet after impressive seasons. If the Vikings are going to be much improved, Zimmer’s defense is going to have to make huge strides. That’s possible, considering the corners will have a season of experience and Pro Bowl defensive end Danielle Hunter (neck surgery) and 2020 free agent defensive tackle Michael Pierce (opted out because of COVID-19 concerns) are expected to return. The Vikings will have to get creative with a salary cap that is going to decrease but there are players who can be jettisoned to create room. Will the Vikings have enough money to sign a free agent guard? That will be one of many questions that will need to be addressed as the new league year approaches on March 17.
- Item: Wild general manager Bill Guerin told reporters Monday that the COVID-19 outbreak the team has been experiencing might not be done yet and “there definitely could be more” players added to the list. The Wild now have 11 players on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols list, including Nick Bjugstad, Nick Bonino, Ian Cole, Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno, Marcus Johansson, Jared Spurgeon, Nico Sturm, Brad Hunt, Carson Soucy and Victor Rask. The last two were added on Monday. The Wild’s season has been put on pause and the team’s facilities closed. Four games were postponed last week, including two last weekend against Arizona, and Monday it was announced Thursday’s game against St. Louis and Saturday’s in Los Angeles also were postponed.
- Reaction: The original 56-game pandemic-impacted schedule already was going to test every team, but you have to wonder what the Wild’s new schedule is going to look like once they return. Minnesota isn’t the only club that will be facing this issue, but it’s going to end up being a race to try to fit in every game before the regular season is scheduled to conclude in May. Would the NHL come up with an alternative plan — especially when you look at how many teams in the United States have been impacted by COVID-19 — that might allow for teams to play fewer than 56 games but still determine the playoff seedings in a fair way? That’s far from ideal, but playing a ridiculous amount of games in a short time, and risking injury, doesn’t seem like a great idea in a season that is anything but normal.