- The debate on Gushue vs McEwen is a tough one. McEwen did beat Goo in the QF en route to the title so that gives an advantage to Mikey. However, Goo does still have his #TourChallenge runner-up finish to accompany his three tour titles already this season supporting his claim to the top. Mikey isn’t far behind though with his second straight title and a SF appearance at the #TourChallenge. These two are clearly the best in the world right now...and this debate will rage on all season. And I couldn’t be happier!!
- Koe moves up the ladder with another tour win. The second-year team is quickly accelerating up the rankings and perhaps it is time to consider this top rung a three-team power race? The #TourChallenge champion seems to finding his groove right now and could be tough to stop.
- Howard also moves up the standings after a championship final appearance in Toronto. A second runner-up showing is not a bad result for the veteran team and they are slowly turning back the clock every week.
- No surprise on Homan being at the top. She seems to have cemented herself into this position and has no intention of giving it up anytime soon.
- Muirhead’s SF appearance in Switzerland keeps her at second, for now. Tirinzoni makes the move back up to 3rd spot with her run to the final in Basel. World champion Paetz also stays in the Top 5, dropping a spot, with her QF appearance in her home country.
- Welcome Anna to the #PowerRankings! What a masterful performance over the weekend...one #TwineTime cannot ignore for the rankings. Going undefeated against a strong international field should put teams on notice. The question always is sustainability....can they remain here for longer than 1 week?
- The other big mover is Team Rocque. Another event, another semi-final showing. If this team can finally get over the SF hump, they could crash the Top 5. But who knows, maybe stronger consideration should be given to strong consistent results for the Rookie of the Year contending team.
- The big drop goes to Team Jones, previously ranked #4. Failing to qualify in Calgary, losing a C-elimination game to Homan on top of it, coupled with strong results from other top contending teams results in a slide down the rankings. The defending Canadian champions have struggled this season, failing to qualify in 2 of their 4 events. Can they turn it around? Maybe Dawn McEwen plays a stronger role on this team than we think?
Canad Inns Men's Classic
Portage la Prairie, MB
2014 Champion: Mike McEwen
Format: 32 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers
Top Teams Entered: Team McEwen, Team Koe, Team Howard, Team Jacobs, Team Bottcher, Team Edin, Team Laycock
Dark Horse Candidates: Mark Kean without a doubt tops this list. Kean is coming off his first Brier appearance last season, a complete team overhaul in the off season and hitting the ice with new guys this season. Despite the high’s and low’s of the past few months, Kean has hit his stride on the ice and continued his rise up the standings. Team Kean finished runner-up to Team Cotter at the #TourChallenge Tier II event in Paradise. Last weekend, Kean shocked a few curling teams and fans qualifying A side at Stu Sells in Toronto and reaching the semifinals before bowing out to eventual champion Mike McEwen. Mark has become a return of the living dead type of story over the past few seasons. This is the second time in two seasons he has had to reform his team in the off season. Last season he ended up winning Ontario, defying the odds. This season, again left for dead, he has risen from the ashes once again, assembled a top notch team and again is finding strong results. The draw is not going to be easy but at this event, with this calibre, nobody has an easy draw. If they can build off the confidence and momentum of last weekend, watch out!
What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4): Line up changes are hitting the season. This week we see a shift for one new team as Brock Virtue has moved into the vice position and Matt Blandford has stepped into the skip position. With many of the top teams already finding success on the season, the new teams and up and coming teams need to step up their game fast if they want to stay and compete. Team Virtue has not found the results they were hoping for early in the season and have made the line up change in hopes of shaking up the results. We saw this mentality work quite well at the Brier last season when Team Canada struggled at the beginning of the event, John Morris moved to vice, Pat Simmons took over skipping duties and BOOM...we all know how that ended. Slight shifts in line ups are not unheard of and with most curlers having the skills to move along the line we should not expect to see this trend stop anytime soon. Will this shift help or hinder Team Virtue (now Team Blandford)? Time will tell but in speaking with the new skip, he is quite confident the team decision is the best one for all the guys.
Qualifiers: Team McEwen, Team Koe, Team Jacobs, Team Laycock, Team Kean, Team Howard, Team Edin, Team Bottcher
Championship: Team McEwen over Team Koe
Stroud Sleeman Cash Spiel
2014 Champion: Colin Dow
Format: 20 team round robin with 8 qualifiers
Top Teams Entered: Team McCormick, Team Lui, Team Stjerne
Dark Horse Candidates: The international teams are going to dominate the headlines at this event based on their level of experience alone. However, if you are looking for a Canadian team to keep an eye on look out for Cory Heggestad. The 42-year old originally from Saskatchewan seems to do quite well at this event. In the past two years we has qualified for the playoffs both times, including a semifinal run last season. Heggestad plays a light tour schedule but has a strong history of success in Stroud and could be the best bet for an Ontario home province champion.
What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4): This event is basically a mini Continental Cup with Ontario vs. The World. Top world teams like McCormick and Corbett (USA), Lui and Zou (China) and Stjerne (Denmark) will battle Ontario teams like Heggestad, Harris and Maus. Which side will come out on top?
Qualifiers: Team Liu, Team Heggestad, Team Maus, Team Corbett, Team Stjerne, Team Shane, Team McCormick, Team Shepherd
Championship: Team Liu over Team Stjerne
McKee Homes Fall Curling Classic
2014 Champion: Aaron Sluchinski
Format: 16 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers
Top Teams Entered: Team Sluchinski
Dark Horse Candidates: A true dark horse may just be 24-year old Parker Konschuh. Konschuh played last season as second with Mick Lizemore. This season he has moved into skipping his own team. This will be young team’s first event of the season so there could be some bambi legs on the ice for the first few ends. Konschuh gained a ton of experience with the success of Team Lizemore last season though. If he can handle the pressure of moving into the skip position once again and the young team can find some confidence early, they could surprise the field in Airdrie.
What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4): Can Team Sluchinski pull the repeat? This is not the strongest field for an event and Sluchinski has a great chance to repeat their win from last season. Sluchinski has had a good start the season, qualifying at the HDF Insurance Shoot Out and just missing a playoff spot last weekend at the DHD Fall Classic. This will be as good a shot as any this season for Team Sluchinski to pick up a tour title.
Qualifiers: Team Sluchinski, Team Yablonski, Team Kim, Team Zhang, Team O’Connor, Team Konschuh, Team Collins, Team Hill
Championship: Team Sluchinski over Team O’Connor
Stroud Sleeman Cash Spiel
2014 Champion: Julie Hastings
Format: 12 team round robin with 6 qualifiers
Top Teams Entered: Team Flaxey, Team Harrison
Dark Horse Candidates: Going with the Kean family this week for dark horse candidates. Husband Mark Kean could be the dark horse in Portage but wife Mallory Kean could also have a strong weekend. Kean has a new team around her this season and the addition of Glenn Howard’s daughter Carly at vice seems to provide a strong 1-2 punch on the back end. At their first event of the season (OCT Fall Classic in Oakville), Team Kean reached the championship final. This is not the strongest field they will face this season but this is also a good indicator to just how strong this team could be going into an Ontario Scotties run. I’d buy a few stocks on this team now while the asking price is low.
What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4): This is Alison Flaxey’s spiel to win...or to lose. Team Flaxey is clearly the favourite this weekend. They enter this event fresh off their first title of the season at the KW Fall Classic. Their event before their championship win was another run to the finals, finishing second at the Shorty Jenkins Classic. These ladies are firing on all cylinders right now.
Qualifiers: Team Flaxey, Team Harrison, Team Kean, Team Auld, Team Cottrill, Team Inglis
Championship: Team Flaxey over Team Kean