Sunday, 5 March 2017

#BetweenTheSheets: Brier Preview with Brad Chyz
Can "The Goo" wow the home crowd with a win or should he "Beware the Ides of March"?
The curling calendar rolls over into a new month and with the welcoming of March means the excitement of the Tim Hortons Brier!  The Mile One Centre in St. John's, NF is going to be rocking all week and curling fans are in for a treat.

This field is considered one of the best, most competitive fields in Brier history.  And why not?  We have past Brier winners.  We have former world champions.  We have Olympic champions.  We have Canadian and World junior champions.  And we even have some exciting new rookies stepping onto the ice.  The home province should have lots to celebrate and cheer for of course with Brad Gushue back in the game and looking more thirsty and hungry for a Brier title than ever before.  But it will not be easy...for him or anyone to claim the 2017 title.  We will see some favourites for sure.  But could we see a few dark horse or #TeamUpset provinces/territories shock the world and make a push for Brier glory?

When #TwineTime put together a Scotties preview a few weeks ago, the field was just too impressive to handle on my own.  So I brought in a guest to help preview the action and welcome a new member to the #TwineTime family, Nadine Chyz.  With the Brier field stacked with top athletic talent, we have a similar scenario where this is too big a field for little old me to handle solo.  Since Nadine did such an outstanding job, including defeating me with her picks, I decided to keep it in the Chyz family and invite Brad Chyz to join me for the #Brier2017 preview.

It is worth noting here #TwineTime fans, this preview interview was conducted prior to the start of play.  However, due to the fact there are so many Brier pools up and running this year (which I love by the way), I thought it best to keep these predictions a secret until after play started.  Not to brag or anything but I did win two Brier pools last year and Brad and I have combined to form a Super Brier Pool team for one entry this year as well.  If you aren't entered into any Brier pools, what are you thinking?  These are awesome and certainly add an extra level of excitement to the action on the ice all week.  I believe I am in 5 #Brier2017 pools this year.  Ok I may be going a bit over the top now....somebody might need to give a #TwineTime intervention by next season.

#TwineTime blog friends, my rock heads and stoners, please help me welcome Brad Chyz to our illustrious family with a full 2017 Tim Hortons Brier preview and predictions special....

TwineTime (TT):  Let's kick off our Brier preview with another special guest, Brad Chyz.  Your family is taking over my blog.  Your sister Nadine was my guest for the Scotties preview and now you are joining me for the Brier preview.  It feels like the #TwineTime blog is going to be run over by the Chyz family.

Brad Chyz (BC):  Well thanks for having me.  I am honoured to be a part of the blog now.  It seems we are overtaking your blog a bit with back to back interviews here.  But it's a good thing.

TT:  You do have big shoes to fill though.  Nadine did an outstanding job with the Scotties, including her picks besting me in the end.  It is the first time I think I have lost a pick bracket against a guest so you are going to have to try and continue the Chyz family winning streak and beat me.  Good luck...because I don't see that happening here!

BC:  *laughing*  Yeah very big shoes to fill here.  But you never know, maybe the Chyz can get two points on the board here.

TT:  *laughing*  We will see.  But before we dive into the Brier, lets talk about you curling once again this season with Mick Lizmore.  Provincials obviously did not go as you would have hoped, in a perfect world you would be in St. John's right now rather than sitting here talking with me.  Overall though, how was the season for you guys and what is the outlook for next year?

BC:  Ideally yeah we would have liked to be in St. John's right now but the cookie doesn't always crumble the way you want it to right?  We had a pretty good year.  We qualified in, I believe, 4 of our 6 events.  I think we made one semi-final so just not playing as sharp as we needed to in the quarterfinal games.  We had a solid year, went into provincials feeling pretty good.  We had a good warm-up weekend of practice and put in a lot of time to prepare.  We got off to a hot start, had an unfortunate loss in the A-qualifier to (Brendan) Bottcher.  We didn't rebound as well as we would have liked going through the B-event and unfortunately we lose the C-qualifier as well.  Our provincial run was a little short but what do you do?

TT:  Yeah, as can happen in the sport of curling unfortunately.  But no harm in losing the A-final to the team that ultimately ended up winning the entire title and going to the Brier.

BC:  Yeah we do have that.  Not as comforting as it seems though *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  No I imagine it wouldn't be.  What is the outlook for next year?

BC:  I am actually leaving the team because I am getting married in the fall and we plan on taking a nice honeymoon out in Thailand.  It's not really ideal to be playing.

TT:  Fair enough and I would say that is a very good reason to step back from the game for awhile, starting a new family life.  Congratulations on the upcoming marriage.

BC:  Thank you very much!

TT:  How is wedding planning going?

BC:  It's going pretty good.  We picked a venue out in Canmore, it is very nice.  We cannot wait to have a wedding in the Rockies.  They do a lot of the planning for us.  It is kind of like buying a house where we kind of go and say we want this and this and don't want this and this and we will add this.

TT:  Excellent!  And we do have the best backdrop for wedding's I think being in Calgary and the surrounding area with the mountains.  Now I do believe your sister is also getting married this year?  Before you too?

BC:  Before me, yup.

TT:  Again beating you *laughing*

BC:  *laughing*  Again beating me.  She seems to always beat me to the punch.  She is always one step ahead of me apparently.

TT:  *laughing*  Fair enough.  Ladies first though.

BC:  *laughing*  That is a fair way to look at it.

TT:  *laughing*  You are just being the nice guy.

BC:  Exactly.  But no we are very excited for one another, getting married in the same year.

TT:  I feel for your parents.  Two weddings to be a part of in one year can be a lot.

BC:  It's just more partying though *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Oh good call!  Well best of luck with the wedding and congratulations once again.  We hope to see you back on the ice again of course.

BC:  Thank you.  We will see what happens in the future.  Maybe we play mixed.  Maybe I go back into competitive men's or maybe it will just be playing a league and a few drinking spiels.

TT:  And nothing wrong with that either.

BC:  No, nothing wrong with that.

TT:  There is also the potential option to do mixed doubles with your sister?

BC:  Yeah, if you can't beat 'em join 'em *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Exactly.  If she is going to beat you anyway, might as well be on the same team now.

BC:  We actually played mixed probably five or six years, something like that.  We made it to provincials and didn't quite do as well as we thought.  She was skipping and I was playing third.  She is a better shooter than I am.

TT:  That's fair.  But is that what you call yourself, a third when there is only two people on the team?  Or was this mixed four's?

BC:  Oh no this was mixed four's.  Before the mixed doubles *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Ah ok, glad we cleared that up.  Any thoughts on doing mixed doubles with her?

BC:  We have talked about it but it is kind of hard to commit to it when you are so busy with men's and life in general.  With men's off the table right now, potentially something could be there for mixed.  There isn't really a season though either.  It's just a few events.  There isn't a tour season.

TT:  Well it could be something to look at.  There have been rumours of a tour season starting up after this Olympic cycle to help prepare for the next Olympic cycle.  Who knows though?

BC:  That's true.  Maybe we can get a few events in before we go to playdowns and play mixed together.

TT:  There you go.  We could hopefully even have a few cool mixed doubles events in Calgary.

BC:  That would be sweet!

TT:  Excellent.  Ok, let's turn our attention to the Brier.  Let's start with the field in general, almost the exact same as last year with 10 of the 12 skips returning and a few transitional shifts in province reps but, in general, very similar field.  When you think look at the field, what are your first thoughts?

BC:  It is arguably one of the best fields we have had in the Brier.  People keep saying that year after year but the teams are getting better year after year.  I think that speaks for itself.

TT:  Yeah, most of the teams are ranked at or near the top of the Canada rankings so you know we are in for some great action.  This is also going to make these predictions that much more difficult.

BC:  Very difficult!  You have a whole bunch of real solid teams, most playing in grand slams all year.  With many of the same teams playing, it should be very similar to the action we see at the slams with games coming down to one shot here or a missed shot there.  I think we are in for some very close games all week.

TT:  I hope you are right!  Let's start with pre-qualification.  We have the four teams: Nunavut, Yukon, PEI and Nova Scotia.  Before we talk about each of them, what are your thoughts on relegation or pre-qualification or whatever we want to call it?

BC:  My initial thought is, coming from Alberta and how hard it is to come out of the province, great because I have an extra chance now if someone from Alberta wins the previous year Brier.  It is one less team I have to beat at provincials.

TT:  The 2017 situation.

BC:  Exactly.  Koe wasn't there.  Everyone had a much better chance.  It wasn't our year.  But looking back on it now, it's not really fair for the other provinces who don't get to take part in the full week.  it sucks to fly out to a province, potentially the other side of the country, and not qualifying and missing out on the experience of the Brier.

TT:  For sure.  As we see with the teams in qualification this year, we have two provinces who have been on the Brier board almost every year with Nova Scotia and PEI.  Nova Scotia has won a few Brier titles.  It's interesting to see provinces with tradition no longer be playing.  Nova Scotia hasn't been there for a few years now.  It is a bit of a disappointment.

BC:  Yeah that is true.  We have been fortunate in Alberta to not face relegation.

TT:  Well looking at the four teams competing, who are your two teams you expect to battle it out in that Pre-Qualification final?

BC:  I kind of picked a random team for this interview as I knew you would be asking me this question.  Who better than Eddie MacKenzie (Team PEI)?  Who better than #TeamUpset?

TT:  #TeamUpset indeed!  That would be a huge upset if it happened.  Who would he be playing in that final?

BC:  There is a good chance he would be playing against Jamie Murphy (Team Nova Scotia).  Both of those teams have been to the Brier before, have experience.

TT:  I also agree with PEI and Nova Scotia in the pre-qualification final.  They are the most experienced of the four teams.  This will be Murphy's 4th Brier and MacKenzie's 5th.  They have both been there.  I am actually going to with the opposite though and pick the favourite, Jamie Murphy and Nova Scotia.  They had a tough go last year losing the pre-qualification final.  Nova Scotia has been trapped in relegation every year since pre-qualification began.  They are the province I would like to see finally get out of it.

BC:  For sure.  It is pretty upsetting to see the same teams always in relegation.  I see what you are saying in rooting for Jamie and cheering for Nova Scotia.

TT:  I think it would also be good for him.  He has had some rough go's in the Brier, including a tough 0-11 record in the past.  Let's see him get back in the field, make some noise and pick up a few wins.  Yukon and Nunvut back again as well.  Nunavut probably not big expectations on them.  But for #growthesport it is nice to see them now.  We saw the same with the Nunavut women at the Scotties.  Hopefully we see the transition and move up in competition.

BC:  Yeah it is nice to see everyone involved and playing in the Brier, every province and territory.  I cannot wait for next year when everyone will actually be in the full event!

TT:  Yes I agree and everyone can participate in every aspect of the event.  So we disagree on the pre-qualification survivor but agree on the final two teams.

BC:  For sure!

TT:  Ok now lets start with our Favourites.  I made the mistake with Nadine of not asking up front how many teams she had listed as a favourite.  How many teams do you have?

BC:  I picked three.

TT:  Three favourites?  That is a lot for a field of 12.  So basically a quarter of the teams playing are favourites? *laughing*

BC:  *laughing* Well yeah, all of them have been in multiple finals.  One hasn't one the final yet but I think he has a really good shot this year.

TT:  Ok, I think I know who you are referring to as that favourite.  I only have two favourites, going with co-favourites if you will.  But I think we both know who the top favourite is.  Who is your #1?

BC:  It has to be the home boys with Brad Gushue.

TT:  I agree, big shocker there!  What do you think about Team Gushue though?  Brad has kind of been the face of curling in Newfoundland for many years.  He was instrumental in St. John's landing the Brier bid.  He has been pumping up the event for a few years all across the country, at grand slams and every event he plays.  Do you think he has added pressure or are they ready for this big moment?

BC:  You could see it as added pressure.  Brad has been in a lot of big games over the years though.  This will be his 14th Brier.  He has been there since 2003, except for 2006.  A little funny side note about 2006, me, Brad, lost a provincial final that year and didn't make it to nationals either.  Maybe there is a thing going on with the Brad's that year, who knows? 

TT:  *laughing*  Well to be fair he did miss the 2006 provincial event due to a little thing called the Winter Olympics and winning a gold medal.

BC:  *laughing*  You just couldn't let me have that one, could you?

TT:  *laughing*  No sir, unfortunately not!

BC:  Well there are a couple Brad's in the field this year, I know that.  A couple of skips and even a second.

TT:  There you go.  Brad seems to be a very popular name within the curling circuit I guess.

BC:  For sure!

TT:  Well if Gushue is going to be the main namesake for you though, not a bad guy to root for.

BC:  No, that's for sure.  He is known as probably the best curler in Canada without a Brier victory.  I think he has a lot to strive for and I think he will pull through in a week's time.

TT:  I agree.  I think Gushue is easily the favourite.  The entire team has been on fire all season.  The team is 10 for 10 in qualifying for events on tour.  A 100% record is pretty impressive and not something we see very often.  Even with Brad not playing most of the year, Mark and boys have really stepped up and have looked just as strong regardless of who was subbing with them.  Everything has been clicking all year.  Brad has been back in two events where they reached a semi-final and won a grand slam.  I think he will be excited to play and be ready to go.  Interesting side note though, Gushue does only have 3 medals to show for his 13 previous Brier experiences.  It is a bit shocking.  He has more grand slam wins than Brier medal wins.  But he is going to be the overall favourite and the home town crowd is gong to be crazy every time he steps on the ice.

BC:  Yeah I think just looking at his performance the past couple of years at the Brier, he is slowly on an upward trend and I think this is the year he peaks.

TT:  I certainly agree.  Ok, who is your other favourite?

BC:  I have Canada listed!

TT:  Wow, I actually disagree.  I am a bit surprised.  Again though, just like your sister when she predicted Canada as a favourite at the Scotties and I also disagreed then.

BC:  I have played against Koe a few times, suffered some brutal losses to him over the years.  It is tough not to pick the winner from last year.  They are coming back to defend their title.  They also happen to have some amazing sweepers on the team.  You can't ignore that and not give them credit.

TT:  That is very fair and I think you are right.  They are one of the best teams.  I actually have them as my number one team to watch out for, just below my two favourites.  The main reason being they have struggled a bit this year on tour.  It hasn't been a strong year for them based on their standards but also based on the standards we as curling fans in Canada expect out of our defending national and world champions.  They only have two titles on tour and only qualified in 5 of 9 events, barely a 50% success rate.  It has been a struggle.  They are stepping it up at the right time, which we have seen before from Kevin.  We saw it last year with the team struggling out of the gate to the season and turned it on and dominated.  It could happen again.

BC:  Yeah, these guys have a lot of Brier experience between the four of them.  They know how to turn it on when the time is right and that time just could be this week.

TT:  You make a great point.  If we look at stats alone, this team has a combined 36 Brier appearances, 12 Brier titles and 9 world titles.  You are not going to find another team across this country or in the world, right now, who has more experience.

BC:  Yeah on paper they are the best team *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Exactly.  If we went by paper and resumes alone we would just let them keep their maple leaf jackets and hand them the title.

BC: *laughing*  Yeah but we would rather watch some great curling.  We will see how it plays out.

TT:  Exactly.  You have them as a favourite, I have them as a team to watch out for.  A slightly different perspective.

BC:  Yeah, we both see them there contending at the end of the week.

TT:  Agreed!  You have one more favourite and I am going to take a guess and say it is the same co-favourite I have and also a namesake of yours?

BC:  Yes, exactly.  Brad Jacobs and Northern Ontario.  These guys are fired up at the big show.  They love the Brier.  They love the crowd.  They have so much energy.  Sometimes people think it is too much but I think all that energy is great.  They are fired up.  They are celebrating.  And I think all of that is great for the sport.

TT:  I agree.  They have a lot of enthusiasm for the sport.  They are a team, probably more than any other team on tour, wears their heart on their sleeve every rock, every shot, every end, every game.  We can see what they are thinking just by reading their faces sometimes.  They are also very vocal on the ice.  At a grand slam, even when not on TV, you can still hear this team talking to one another all the time.  The communication works to their advantage.  Some people, like you said, perhaps don't like the emotion but I think it adds to the excitement of the game and is something we do not see very often.  We saw it at the Olympics when they won.  Canada rallied behind them and loved seeing the emotion.  It is something we as a nation are not known for, being kind of in your face and emotional over our shots and wins and games.  It is great!  I think they have an excellent shot at doing very well here.

BC:  Agreed and reading off of what you just said on how they bring it at the big events, we saw a similar display in 2010 with Kevin Martin.  Curling in the Olympics is way bigger with a broader crowd with people who may not always watch the game.  We see more people hoping on board for the sport.  And with both of our past two representatives at the Olympics, we have seen those teams embrace the loudness and cheers at the venue.  It leaves memories and is great for the sport.

TT:  Very much, good point.  I was at the 2010 Olympics and was at the curling venue for the opening week draws and it felt more like being at an European soccer match than a curling event.  It took a bit to get used to as we usually see a more quiet venue at events and grand slams, similar to what you see in tennis.  The crowd was cheering, sometimes for misses or bad shots but that was exciting and fun too.  It is something the Jacobs team rallies behind.

BC:  Yeah the embrace the crowd noise.  They also have a pretty good record in some big games.  They rallied through the pre-trials just to make the Olympic trials.  They were one of the bottom ranked teams in the trials and went undefeated.  We saw an instance right there where....*laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  where we have a cat walking across the table to join us for an interview?

BC:  *laughing*  Yup exactly.  A little shout out to Bailey.  How many times has that ever happened?

TT:  *laughing*  That is the first pet to ever be involved in a #TwineTime interview!  Jacobs teams has had a great season though.  Last year was a tough one for them, failing to win an event.  This year they have a grand slam win recently under their belts and we have to expect, come playoff weekend, this team is going to be there contending for the title.

BC:  Yeah you have to expect they are somewhere in playoffs.  Potentially the 1 vs 2 but, if not, at least the 3 vs 4.

TT:  For sure!  Ok we kind of agree on our favourites.  Now for our teams to Watch Out For.  These are the teams that may or may not contend for top spot in the round robin but are the teams we expect to push throughout the event in nailing down one of those coveted playoff spots.  I have already said one of my teams is Team Canada.  I have one other team in this list.  How many teams do you have?

BC:  I have two here.

TT:  Ok, I have one left to discuss and you have two.  How about you say your first one?

BC:  My first one is Manitoba.

TT:  *laughing*  What a surprise!  That is also my other team to watch out for.

BC:  *laughing*  Mike McEwen.  We both saw that one coming.  This is his second Brier appearance, his #FirstSecond if you will.  Last year was huge for them.  Many have been wondering when Mike would finally win Manitoba and reach a Brier.  I think you said it best before in they were probably the best team in Canada to never play a Brier.  But now they have played in one and are here competing in their second.  This team has been together a long time, as long as I have been on the men's tour and probably longer than that.  They are like brothers, two of them actually are!  They mesh well.  They know how to treat one another.  When to give each other space and when to lift one another up.

TT:  I think you make a good point right there.  Similar to how we were talking about Koe on paper having the most experience, you hit the nail on the head on the advantage Manitoba has in that they have been together the longest and know one another very well.  This is a big thing.  You know this as well obviously from playing on tour.  You have to know how to read one another first of all and that is a huge advantage they have over every other team.

BC:  I think every team goes through the chemistry things.  It is an on-going experience.  These guys know all of this for many years.  They are like an old married couple. *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  I am sure Mikey and the boys would love to hear you refer to them as the old married couple on tour.

BC:  *laughing*  I am sure they have heard it before.  Maybe they even think it themselves.

TT:  *laughing*  I hope so!  Please lets find that out.  Mike, if you ever read a blog post from me, this is something we want to know if it is true.  But you do make a good point.  Last year was their first Brier.  Mike was considered the best skip in the world to never play a national championship.  They had a lot of pressure on their shoulders last year, perhaps more than anyone understands or they would even let on.  I can't imagine that feeling.  But now being back for a second time.  Most of the focus will be on the big three we have already named.  Last year they lost the bronze medal match and that experience should be enough to push them forward.  I fully expect to see them on playoff weekend.

BC:  I completely agree.  It would not surprise me at all to see them playing at the end of the week.

TT:  When you look at their year, it hasn't been their best.  They do have two titles though.  Their last tour event before provincials was in Phoenix, which they won.  They have momentum.  They have confidence.  I think we will see that from them when they hit the ice opening weekend.

BC:  Yup, for sure.

TT:  So who is your other team to watch out for?

BC:  I am going quite against the grain with this next pick.  I played with one of these guys before.  Two of them have Canadian Mixed championship titles under their belt, one just recently.  Our own Alberta champions, Brendan Bottcher!

TT:  WOW!  They are a watch out for team for you?

BC:  Yeah.  I think anything can happen here.  They have played in numerous slams, especially Bottcher.  He has beat a lot of the top teams in the past, many who he will be facing this week.  If they get a good grab of the ice early, anything can happen.

TT:  Is this potentially a little bit of a homer pick?  Again, riding with your family, Nadine said the same thing.

BC:  #AlbertaProud!  You have to root for your own province.  I think everyone throughout Canada would agree with me.  You just don't root against your province.

TT:  Yeah, I'll agree with you there.  But a one to watch for?  That is very high.

BC:  I honestly think you should keep your eye on them, they could be there...potentially!

TT:  Ok fair enough.  We will keep an eye out for them.  I don't have them as a one to watch for.  It might be a bit high for them given it is their first Brier.  I think the one advantage they have is they have one of the best coaches you could ever ask for being there to help them out, Kevin Martin.  Perhaps that could be their ace in the hole?

BC:  Yeah.  Who else would you like to come out at a timeout or your fifth end break or even pre-game and post-game.  All those conversations...I can't think of anyone better in the game.

TT:  Yup, I agree.  His experience alone will help.  Nothing at the Brier will surprise him.  The boys may get overwhelmed at times, for obvious reasons, with bright lights and shiny cameras, arena ice and media attention.  There is a lot going on.  He can keep them dialed in.  You also raise a good point on timeouts being essential for this team.  We have seen in the past where Bottcher struggles and perhaps calling a time out early rather than too late could help reel the team in and get them re-focused if they have a tough end.  If they use Kevin in an opportune way, he can calm the team down if they are struggling or down early.  His expertise is going put them above and beyond most other teams with their coaches.

BC:  Kevin has probably seen every scenario in the game of curling.  No two games are identical but with the amount of games he has played at the high level, Kevin can propel this team further along than they would without him.  They have that going for them right away.

TT:  I agree.  We will see though.  I think we may agree to disagree though on Alberta's final ranking.  I think you have them finishing a little higher than I do.

BC:  #AlbertaProud, what can I say?  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  #AlbertaProud it is!  Ok, now we get to the fun part, the Dark Horse teams.  These are the teams many may not peg to do well or even finish with an above .500 record but these are also teams the other teams we already listed should not take for granted or underestimate.  These are teams that could surprise any of the big name teams and could even make a run at a playoff spot of tiebreaker.  How many dark horse teams do you have listed?

BC:  *laughing* Oh I have like 5.

TT:  *laughing*  So basically the field?  You have a Top 5 listed and the rest of the field is the dark horse?

BC:  *laughing*  I mean any of these teams could pull a #TeamUpset.  None of these are the front runners but if any of them have a solid week, they could be there at the end as well.

TT:  Yeah that's fair.  Obviously I am a huge fan of the #TeamUpset concept so I would never be against a dark horse team.

BC:  *laughing*  Go Eddie MacKenzie!

TT:  *laughing*  Ok if the pre-qualification winner makes it all the way to the playoffs, there is the ultimate #TeamUpset moment!

BC:  That would be the biggest upset!  

TT:  Ok so if we look at the teams in the dark horse category, who is your number one?

BC:  I have to say B.C.  Johnny Mo has the experience and is a team leader.  This is the same team that won the 2013 Road to the Roar and ended up losing to Jacobs in the Olympic trials final.  They surprised many in reaching that final.  If they can play like they did then and play like they have in recent Briers, maybe going one step better, I think there is potential for them to make the podium.

TT:  I think they are an interesting team to watch.  They lost that trials final.  They also played in the Brier and lost that final in the same year.  The experience level for this team is high.  I don't have them as a dark horse but I have them just under the teams to watch out for.  I do have them being one of the teams that, come Thursday, they are going to be right there and either be one win on the side of making the playoffs or just missing out.

BC:  Yeah, that's very fair.

TT:  My number one dark horse is a dark horse province every year, Quebec!  I think Jean-Michel Menard is a previous Brier winner back in 2006.  This is his 11th Brier, his 5th in a row.  He is a guy, similar to most Quebec teams men and women, who don't really leave their province too often during the tour season.  Many teams don't know what to expect when they see them at the Brier.  One time they did leave their province this year, they played an event in New Brunswick and they won.  They have some momentum, a tour win under their belts.  You can never count a previous champion either.

BC:  For sure.  This team has been together for 5 or 6 years now.  This is their 5th straight Brier as a complete team.  The experience of playing in this atmosphere together as a team once again will be a huge positive.  They have nothing to be afraid of and shouldn't have many nerves.  I feel like I have been saying this for a few teams but if they can get the early edge in reading the ice or draw weight, the little things, that could be the difference.

TT:  I think you are right and that will be the big thing with Menard and hit the nail on the head really for any of these dark horse teams.  Who can read the arena ice best?  Most of the teams we will name on the dark horse side probably have not played many events, if any, on arena ice this season.  We saw at the Scotties with teams getting comfortable with the ice and I think we will see the same thing here at the beginning.  With Jean-Michel's experience playing here before, having played a few grand slam events as well, they aren't new to the game and it should help them.  Their record at previous Briers usually sees them with 6 or 7 wins.  Last year was only 4 wins, a disappointing year and a struggle for them.  I think this year they should be expected to kick it up a notch and move up the win total from last year.

BC:  Yeah they are one of those teams that will have a lot of close games and those games can go either way.  Their record may have been 4-7 but it easily could have been 7-4, potentially a tiebreaker spot.

TT:  With them, they could also take a big of motivation in seeing how Eve Belisle did at the Scotties.  She was the perfect #TeamUpset.  Nobody expected them, ok well #TwineTime did call them as the perfect dark horse team, but it did come a bit out of nowhere and they were pushing for a playoff spot right to the final draw.  I think Menard could do the same here.  Now who is another dark horse on your side?

BC:  There is a guy who has been here before, in fact this will be 17th Brier.

TT:  Hmmm I wonder who that is? *laughing*

BC:  *laughing*  A guy by the name of Howard.  That name many not sound too familiar with people.

TT:  *laughing*  Not at all, who is this Howard you speak of?

BC:  *laughing*  Glenn Howard was won numerous Briers.  He has been to 17 of them.  They have a veteran back end with Richard Hart joining him.  They have a young front end with his son Scott and David Mathers.  They are a solid team.  Excellent hitters.  Glenn is one of those guys who knows the game is right on par with Kevin (Martin).  I think his experience and ability to make those big shots in crucial moments, whether late in a game or to take advantage of another team's mistake to give them a lead, will be huge.  We will see what happens.

TT:  I think that is a good call.  They are an interesting team to watch.  I don't have them listed as a dark horse just because it is really hard for me to call Glenn Howard a dark horse at the Brier, if you know what I mean?  A Brier and World Champion, he has almost done it all in the sport.  Very similar to what you said about Kevin with Team Bottcher, Glenn brings the same to this team.  Their year has been a bit of struggle.  They were at the Tour Challenge Tier II, losing the final to Greg Balsdon.  They played in a few slams now and unfortunately went winless once.  I think you make a great point though with this team in comparing the back end to the front end.  The back end is heavy with experience, the front end not as much.  Sure they have been there before but not the success the back end has.

BC:  Right.  They haven't played in those big games.

TT:  Exactly.  Glenn can come up with those big shots but if the front end isn't setting them up well in ends and Rich and Glenn are constantly left with tough shots end after end and game after game, that could start to wear them down.  It is a very long week at the Brier.

BC:  For sure.  You can't keep pulling rabbits out of the hat every time.

TT:  It will be interesting to see how they handle the tough schedule.  They are a team that could win only 3 or 4 games, similar to last year, but also reel off 7 or 8 and challenge for a playoff spot.  Who knows?

BC:  How good of a story would it be Glenn Howard back at a world championship in Edmonton?  Last time the championships were in Edmonton, he ended up winning it all.  Perhaps it will be #destiny for Glenn?

TT:  Wow, very good Mr. Brad Chyz!  Mr. Stats over here too, I am impressed!

BC:  I don't do a lot of stats but that is one I know because I was there watching.

TT:  I was also at that world championship final against Germany.  Very good point though.  I think Gerry and CurlingZone would be very happy to know you are on top of your stats.  *laughing*

BC:  *laughing*  Sweet, one point for me!

TT:  Well now if you step away from the game for a few months perhaps you can give Gerry a little call, tell him you know your stats and you are set up.

BC:  *laughing*  Well I know a few stats.  I wouldn't same I am a James or Gerry though.

TT:  *laughing*  Well thank you!  Another dark horse team I have is Saskatchewan and Adam Casey.  Similar to you calling Alberta, I am a proud Saskatchewan boy, born and raised.  I am always going to side a bit with my #TeamGreen.  I do like this team though and have been a huge supporter of Team Meachem for a few seasons now.  Casey was at the Brier last year with PEI, still wearing the green but shifting to a lighter shade of it and moving out west to Saskatchewan.  They are going to be  a fun team to watch.  It will be Casey's 6th Brier and his 4th as a skip.  He can use that experience to help his team out as the rest of the team will be Brier rookies.  Their season has not been as strong as last year when they won a few events and qualified for Champions Cup.  However, they have started to peak at the right time.  And of course Catlin Schneider is a member of the #TwineTime family, of which you are now the newest member, so I always lend a piece of my heart to the family members competing and like to cheer them on to success.

BC:  You have to cheer for a brother *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  That's right, exactly!  So you have to at least be cheering for Catlin when they are on the ice and when they are the feature game on TV, you better be watching!!

BC:  *laughing*  Oh, for sure!  They were actually a #TeamUpset at provincials as well.  They knocked off Team Laycock in the provincial final.

TT:  They beat them twice at provincials.

BC:  There ya go, beat them twice!  Casey has been to numerous Briers and he does have some great shot makers in front of him.  Earlier on in the season we saw Shaun Meachem step down from his skip role into second and become the best second he could be to benefit the team.  He is a real team player and with an attitude like that on the team, I believe as well through the entire line-up, this is what a team needs to lead to success.

TT:  I agree with you and you make a good point with what they did with their line-up change.  Shaun stepped down when things were not working as well.  They did this and Casey took over as skip and they found success.  They qualified in all three events they played in with this current line-up, including two semifinals and one final, which was their last event before provincials losing to Manitoba who they happen to play in their opening draw.  They are riding a high but they also play a team right out the gate who they have recently played and had a good game with.

BC:  There is a bit of comfort there.

TT:  Yeah, I think it could work to their advantage.  In speaking of the fifth role, Catlin's dad Jamie Schneider is going to be their alternate.  He has been to the Brier before and is a former Canadian junior champ.  He will be able to help the team, especially the younger players like Catlin and Dustin (Kidby).

BC:  For sure and not just their fifth remember.  Look at their coach, Pat Simmons.

TT:  Could you ask for a better coach?

BC:  Well Kevin perhaps.  But Pat has won two Briers, back to back with Alberta and Team Canada.  He has experience, similar to what Kevin brings to Alberta he brings to Saskatchewan.  There is a lot of that going on at the Brier this year.  It will be fun to see how those fifth players and coaches are utilized in helping out their teams throughout the week.

TT:  For sure.  The interesting thing with Pat will be whether the rumours catch up to him.  With Colton Flasch recently announcing his departure from Team Laycock to start skipping his own team, many are talking about Pat being named as the new player for Team Laycock moving forward.  He has played with Steve before so it would be a great fit.  The rumours are running though and hopefully it is not a distraction for him or this team.  Pat is a professional though so I doubt it will be but I can't imagine he goes unscathed through media on being asked about it.  Although I am all for it.  I want to see him back on the ice.

BC:  For sure.  We all want to see him back on the ice.  He was clutch in his last Brier win, making phenomenal shots.  You can't help but think and hope he comes back to the game and performs at the same level we love to see him play at.

TT:  For sure and I would much rather see him return wearing Saskatchewan green over Alberta blue any day!  *laughing*

BC:  *laughing*  Yeah, he would be going back to his home colors, similar to what he is wearing right now.

TT:  *laughing*  I would love that part!  Who is your next dark horse team?

BC:  My last dark horse team is the other Koe.

TT:  Also my last dark horse team.

BC:  Jamie Koe....also a part of the #TwineTime family.

TT:  The very first member of the #TwineTime family in fact.

BC:  #PolarPower has been to 11 Briers, lots of experiences.  He has had a few tough go's at it.  But we saw his best finish in 2012 when he went 7-4 and lost the bronze medal game.  I think if they can get on a hot streak, similar to 2012, they could make another deep run to the end of the week.  It wouldn't surprise me.  It may seem far fetched against this field but if anyone really wants to be there, it's him and this team.

TT:  I agree.  You can never underestimate Jamie.  We know the fans will rally behind him, they love him.  As a player, his fan engagement is top notch and people love him.  Being at the Brier in Calgary a few years ago, he had a tough Brier going winless, but he still spent a lot of time talking with fans and taking pictures.  This is what you want to see from our curling athletes.  I don't know many people who do it better.

BC:  You know he will always be in the Patch after every game, that's for sure.

TT:  Yeah, I think he has been there a few times.  He might know his way around there just a little bit.

BC:  He is certainly a crowd favourite.  He brings the party scene back into curling.  We have seen that scene kind of fade out over the years as curling becomes more competitive with the elite side of the sport.  Ok, a bit off topic of Northwest Territories, but over the past decade we have seen more teams working out and hitting the gym.  When you are out at a grand slam, first thing in the morning you see these other teams...ok I was never one of those people who would go to the gym in the morning...but you see these other teams as you go for breakfast working on their cardio and working out to be in their peak shape.  Some of those teams are competing this week.  Jacobs for one...everyone knows how big those guys' biceps are and it shows in their play and results.  But going back to NWT, it is nice to see a bit of a throwback to the other side of curling in being a crowd favourite and bringing the fun into the sport, on and off the ice.  Everyone loves to have a good time at the Brier, go to the Patch, enjoy some live music and just have fun.

TT:  Yeah, you hit the nail on the head once again.  Jamie brings the fun level to the game.  He takes the game seriously and of course he wants to win every time he steps onto the ice but he is also a veteran out there.  He knows the fine line between competition and having fun.  He plays the game and has fun, it's what the crowd loves to see.  Sure their record overall is not the greatest and it will be tough to push for a playoff spot here given the field.  But they were here last year, same field, and even had to go through pre-qualification last year before finishing 3-8.  They also played 4 more games then everyone else.  He doesn't have those extra games this year, those games that could have tired them out a bit last year.  Perhaps those 3 wins can be increased to 4 or 5 wins.  We saw the same with sister Kerry, another #TwineTime member, at the Scotties finishing 5-6.  You have to think seeing your sister do so well and put up her best performance will motivate Jamie this week.

BC:  Oh definitely.  It will only help them out in the long run.

TT:  And the big game everyone will be watching will of course be the Koe Battle on Wednesday night.

BC:  Team Canada vs. Northwest Territories.

TT:  We know it is going to be a good game.  Let's hope both are playing well heading into that draw too.  Jamie did talk about his record against Kevin in the past though in his interview with me so go check that out if interested (HERE).  They will be a fun team to watch.  Are there any other dark horse teams you have?

BC:  No I think we named everyone.  Their is other teams you perhaps don't see on tour very often because they don't play as many events.  Mike Kennedy from New Brunswick is back.  He has been to the Brier before, finished last year 3-8.  I think it will be hard this year to duplicate that.

TT:  I agree.  Great on Mike to repeat as New Brunswick champion.  When many people think of New Brunswick curling they think of James Grattan.  He has been the face of New Brunswick curling.

BC:  Ever since Russ (Howard) for sure.

TT:  Well they even played together for a few years.  Mike has become the returning face.  Back to back wins, a 3-8 record last year.  They were perhaps the #TeamUpset last year.  Many did not expect them to win 3 games, I know I certainly had my doubts heading into the event I will admit.  It will be tough but it's the same field so why not?

BC:  For sure.  He is paddling up stream but he did it last year so why not once again?  Everyone has to come prepared every game.  Every team will be pushing to win.  No game is a gimmie and you still have to come out and play.  Anyone can beat anyone and anyone can lose to anyone.

TT:  Absolutely.  There are no free bingo squares at the Brier anymore.  Mike is the perfect example.  If a team takes them lightly and get caught looking ahead in their own draw, he could be poised to pull off a few upsets along the way.  It would be a great story if they can reach 4 or more wins this year.

BC:  Yes, definitely.

TT:  Ok, cool.  We have covered off everyone.  Now lets get to the fun part: The Playoffs!  First off, do you have any tiebreakers?

BC:  I do have a tiebreaker between Alberta and Manitoba.

TT:  Interesting, still riding that #AlbertaPride homer pick all the way to a tiebreaker.

BC:  Yeah I think if they can pull it all together and rattle off a few early victories we could potentially see them in a tiebreaker.  They way I did my math, and guessing.... *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Let's be honest it is a total guessing game at this point....

BC:  *laughing*  Yup, I think they will be tied with Manitoba.  I do have Manitoba winning the tiebreaker game though.

TT:  Ok, fair enough.  I don't have Alberta in a tiebreaker.  I do have a tiebreaker though, but a bit different from your's.  I have a three-way tie for third place.  Three teams tied with identical records battling it out for two playoffs spots.  Of course, as we know when there is a three-way tie for two playoff spots, one team automatically will be given third place and then the remaining teams will have a tiebreaker game.  Similar to how you have Manitoba in a tiebreaker, I do have them tied for the tiebreaker spot but I think Mike's draw to the button will be the best and he will avoid the tiebreaker.  My tiebreaker game will be between B.C. and Team Canada.  I think Johnny Mo will take that team up a notch from last year and they will be right there with Kevin.  I do have Team Canada eliminating B.C. though.  So who is your 3 vs 4 game?

BC:  My 3 vs 4 game will be Northern Ontario playing Manitoba.

TT:  Wow, you have Northern Ontario are your third place team after the round robin?

BC:  Yup, after the round robin that's where they will be.

TT:  Wow Brad....not giving this other Brad the equal love I see.

BC:  No but I mean for the love I didn't give Jacobs I gave to Gushue.  You can't give all the Brad's all the love.

TT:  Well I disagree because my top two teams are both Brad's.  I have Brad and Brad sitting at the top after the round robin.  My 3 vs 4 game sees Canada knocking off B.C. in the tiebreaker to play Manitoba.  But who is your 1 vs 2?

BC:  My 1 vs 2 is the home town boys Brad Gushue playing Team Canada Kevin Koe.

TT:  Do you have Brad Gushue finishing first in the round robin?

BC:  I do have Brad Gushue finishing first and, believe it or not, with a perfect record.

TT: are really going with a perfect record?  This is a very tough field to go undefeated.

BC:  I don't crunch the numbers like you do, going against the grain here.  I think he will feed off the home crowd.  He will start strong.  His first game is against Alberta.  I think Alberta will be in tough.  I think if Gushue can rattle off the first couple of wins we can ride that right through the week.

TT:  Yup, very fair.  I do agree with you, Brad is going to be in the 1 vs 2 game.  I don't have them going undefeated though.  I actually have them finishing in second behind the other Brad, Brad Jacobs.  I also don't think any team goes undefeated in this round robin.  But you never know.  Jacobs went undefeated last year against this very similar field.  An undefeated record is not impossible, I just don't see it happening two years in a row.  We will see which one of us is right.

BC:  Maybe buy a lottery ticket!

TT:  *laughing*  If either Brad goes undefeated this year, you as the other other Brad should totally go buy a lottery ticket for Friday night.

BC:  *laughing*  Sweet, deal.

TT:  So who do you have winning your 3 vs 4 game?

BC:  My 3 vs 4 game will have Northern Ontario knocking off Manitoba.

TT:  So Northern Ontario goes to your semifinal and Manitoba drops to the bronze once again?

BC:  Yes.

TT:  I actually agree with you.  I also have Manitoba losing the 3 vs 4 game to Team Canada for me.  Manitoba drops to bronze and Team Canada lives to fight another day in the semifinal.  Who is your 1 vs 2 winner?

BC:  I actually have Newfoundland suffering their first loss of the week in the 1 vs 2 game to Team Canada, dropping them down to the semifinal to play Northern Ontario.  But I do have Newfoundland winning the semifinal, getting back to the final for a rematch with Team Canada.

TT:  Oh wow!  Ok!  You are riding this Alberta / Team Canada vibe, riding them out to the final.  I do agree with you a bit though, I also have Newfoundland losing the 1 vs 2 game to Northern Ontario and dropping to the semifinal against Team Canada.  And again, similar to you, I have Newfoundland winning the semifinal to advance to the final for a rematch with Northern Ontario and a #BradBattle for the title.

BC:  Wow, intense!

TT:  Yes it will be.  Ok, lets talk bronze medal.  Who is in your bronze medal match and who walks away with the medal?

BC:  For the bronze medal match I have Northern Ontario playing Manitoba and I have Manitoba winning.

TT:  So you have Manitoba winning that lovely bronze medal match that nobody likes to talk about and many people don't even want to play in apparently.

BC:  Yeah, and it's also an upset.  Many people are saying Northern Ontario could potentially win it all.

TT:  I agree with you there.  I have Northern Ontario playing for gold, not bronze.  But I will agree with you on the bronze winner.  I have Manitoba beating Team Canada.  I think Mike finally reaches the podium after just missing last year.  And I have Canada finishing in fourth.

BC:  Interesting.  I like it!

TT:  Ok, let's look at the final.  Who do you have coming through and wearing the Team Canada jacket when all is said and done?

BC:  Team Canada, sticking with the red and white they have been wearing all week....but not the Team Canada red and's Team Newfoundland.

TT:  Wow...that was really good actually.

BC:  Yeah I just came up with that on the spot.

TT:  Very impressive!!  I like it.

BC:  They are going to finish with a different red and white but probably the better red and white for what they are after.  I have Newfoundland knocking off Team Canada, the same team that knocked down in the 1 vs 2 game.

TT:  I agree with you once again.  I think Gushue knocks off Northern Ontario and finally taking home that Team Canada Brier jacket and trophy.  For all the reasons we have talked about already, this just seems like #destiny.  This just feels like it is their year to do it.

BC:  And what better way to do it then in your back yard!

TT:  Just imagine the crowd during that final?!  Even if he just makes the final, win or lose, that game is going to be intense.  We saw a similar setting at the Brier here in Calgary when it was Team Canada vs. Northern Ontario.  Huge crowd and everyone cheering for Pat Simmons and the team.  It was electric being inside the arena.  If Gushue is in the final, this year's final would put that final to shame on energy level alone.

BC:  For sure.  If we see Brad in the final at the end of the week the roof of that place is going to be blowing off.  They are going to have everyone in Newfoundland in that arena.  They will be cheering hard for their poster boy.  He is the face of curling in Newfoundland.  He has all the fan support back home but I think also across the country rooting for him to finally win a Brier.  It will be a crazy building.

TT:  It will be intense.  You know when I looked at trying to finalize who would be playing Newfoundland in the final, thinking about the side story lines alone of Brad Jacobs being there with him.  Brad vs Brad.  Gushue vs. Jacobs.  It's a #BradBattle.  Similar to to the Calgary Brier final, Jacobs once again would be playing the villain role.  I think they are kind of going to be playing that role all week actually in St. John's.  I think he is the biggest challenger to Gushue taking home the title.  It's not a role he is new to either, we have seen it in the past at grand slams and past Briers.  The team seems to like the villain role and it could work for them actually.

BC:  Yeah they do seem to embrace that role a bit for sure.  I believe they love the fans they have but also the fans they don't have.  They love proving those fans wrong when they are making all the shots and beating the other teams.  I like the whole villain vs. home town favourite you got going on here actually.

TT:  Yeah, it's almost a story book ending in a way.  Curling is a unique sport in that players and teams do get along.  We don't see the negativity we see in other sports and players calling one another out all the time.  You of course know this having played on tour.  I have seen it at events.  After an event or a draw, everyone gets together in the Patch and seem to get along really well.  But having that villain persona and Jacobs owning it, I would actually like to see them embrace it and own it all week.  Ride it out right to the final and see what happens.

BC:  For sure.

TT:  The story line alone is amazing.

BC:  The story line would be amazing.  I think we are in for a treat when the action hits the ice this weekend.  I am very interested and excited to watch every draw that I can all week.

TT:  I think it will be, like you said, a lot of close games all week.  We are going to see some amazing shots, hopefully some upset along the way but, in the end, lets hope for a home town win.  Gushue deserves it.

BC:  For sure!

TT:  There is no other player in this field I think I would like to see win a Brier more and to do it at home, nothing can beat that moment!

BC:  I totally agree.  I couldn't say it any better.

TT:  Ok, so we kind of agree.  Our podium looks very similar in having our gold and bronze medal winners be the exact same.  We really are just interchanging our silver and fourth place teams.  In the end we do have the same four teams in the playoffs.

BC:  Yeah.  I think it is very realistic to see those four teams there.  As we said in this interview, sure we may see one or two other teams challenge and push for a playoff spot, it is not too far fetched to happen.  But they have a lot of work ahead of them to reach the playoffs.

TT:  I agree.  It is going to be a fun time.  Anything else you have about the Brier you want to talk about Brad?

BC:  Just a quick shout out to Evan Asmussen, fifth player for Team Alberta.  Good guy.

TT:  Nice.  What is your history with Evan to give him a little shout out?

BC:  I grew up playing against him in juniors.  Played with him one year in men's.  The first year I played with Matt Blandford, also a #TwineTime member.  We don't live in the same city but we do chat quite often.  He is a great guy and I know he has been snapping and posting on facebook great stuff about Team Alberta.  Keep doing that Evan, you are amazing and I love you!

TT:  Wow, that is an awesome shout out!  What I also like about what we have talked about today is giving some shout outs to some fifth players and some coaches who have a role that is often not talked about and fly under the radar as to the importance those two roles play at a Brier.  Sure we may never see either of them technically on the ice perhaps but if you don't have them, you will feel it.

BC:  Yeah, I don't know how much you or people know about the role of a fifth player or a coach at some of these bigger events, like a provincial or Brier, but they do a lot of stuff off the ice.  Whether it is tracking rocks or working overtime for the team, they are putting in a lot of hours even doing something simple like running to get some gatorrade for the boys or whatever is needed.  They put in a lot of effort.

TT:  That's good.  What a great point to make and something not talked about a lot in just how they help the team and how pivotal their role is, whether big or small roles.

BC:  Yeah definitely.

TT:  I like it, great point!  What a nice way to end the interview as well.  Anything else you got?

BC:  I think that is it.

TT:  Excellent.  Well action kicks off on the ice this weekend in St. John's.  Lots of good curling and lets hope the players have a good time on and off the ice and we have a good time watching and cheering them on.

BC:  For sure.  Thank you so much for having me and enjoying a couple beers along the way. *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Well how could we not enjoy a few beers talking about curling?

BC:  For sure.

TT:  Welcome to the family as well.  It's, hopefully, a very exclusive and fun family club to be a part of and you are now the newest member.

BC:  Awesome.

TT:  Thank you once again for joining me on the #Brier2017 preview special.  And again congratulations and all the best with the upcoming wedding.

BC:  Thank you very much!

How about those picks curling fans?  It would appear both Brad and myself are feeling "The Goo" love this week in predicting Brad Gushue and company to finally take home the coveted Brier trophy in front of, what I can only imagine would be, a sold-out and very loud Mile One Centre next weekend.  Overall some very similar podium picks too.  The big difference on who comes out on top in the Chyz vs #TwineTime battle could be the play of "villain" Brad Jacobs and his Northern Ontario team.

As stated in this blog header, Team Gushue and fans should also "Beware the Ides of March" and not celebrate a championship win too soon.  Ok yes, I get "ides" technically means March 15 and the Brier final is on March 12...but close enough to still be a viable analogy right?  Caesar was a bit cocky and suffered a fatal blow.  Team Gushue and the Newfoundland & Labrador fans cannot get too excited either with early victories or a unbeknownst villain may just slay them at the very end (#TwineTime sees you Mr. Jacobs!!).

You have read Brad's picks.  You have read my picks.  What about your picks?  Agree or disagree with Brad?  Agree or disagree with me?  Perhaps you just disagree with both of us?  Whichever way you see the Brier shaking out, feel free to let both Brad and myself know.  Hit us up on twitter or in the comment section below.  And if you are on twitter, toss our newest #TwineTime family member a follow HERE.

Before I end this preview, I also want to remind everyone the Brier is not the only major competition going on this week.  The 2017 World Wheelchair Curling Championships are underway in Korea, the site of the upcoming 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.  For a preview and predictions of the action, check out the #TwineTime blog post HERE.  As well, stay up to date on all the action with draw by draw results on the World Curling Federation website.  Let's continue to #growthesport by supporting ALL disciplines of #curling!

Enjoy the action in St. John's and PyeongChang.

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