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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

#PowerRankings W7

#BetweenTheSheets: Week 7 Power Rankings
Controversy stirs debate...what a week?!


As our curling season starts to pick up steam and the rocks start sliding closer and closer towards the pinpoint of the year, the 2018 Winter Olympics, the intensity meter seems to be turning up week in and week out.

Some teams are handling the pressure of the Olympic season quite well.  Some are revving up their game in the early part of the season and look to move from a "what if" possibility to an Olympic title contender.  And some have felt the 352lbs of weight crash in on them.  Pressure and stress are interesting emotions that can bring out the best and worst in people.

But what about controversy?  We have had a relatively quiet season on the controversy front, especially compared to year's past.  No allegations of cheating.  No major falls and injuries.  And changes were brought in to the sport from the governing federation with major approval.

Who knew #TwineTime would be the one to get people riled up?  Well it happened folks....

Last week was an intense week for this blog.  Not only was it the busiest week for blog posts since the Summer Olympics of last year but all the posts were focused on debatable topics.  The ideas, opinions and thoughts expressed in each blog post last week were meant to get people to think, ask questions and stir conversation.

Apparently conversation can also lead to controversy as a few rock heads and stoners thoroughly disagreed with one post here or one post there....and some disagreed with all the posts of the week (you can usually tell by how many follows/unfollows and subscribes received or dropped after any given post).  Last week certainly saw some statistical action!

Now conversation did flow, which is what any sports journalist or blogger is hoping for.  You want people to read what you throw down.  You want people to have an opinion, whether for you or against you.  And you want people to feel comfortable sharing their opinion with you.  And last week this did happen, a few times.

It was interesting to especially hear how many people were for and against my recommendation for a revamp to our current rankings system.  Unlike past blog posts which usually yield more in between response and light-hearted conversation, this specific blog post seemed to bring out.....ummmm....lets say passion in more people.

Everything from "you are completely right" and "finally someone speaks what many of us have been thinking" to "you are wrong" and "you don't know any of the facts on this".  How polarizing right?  One blog post both hit the pin for the big score while also flashed everything in the house with a complete miss.  But what do we take from this?

I stand by the opinions penned in this space last week.  I do believe the system needs a revamp and work can be done.  I hold firm on my beliefs the current system is not perfect and, while an improvement from the past, is still more a document in "draft" form awaiting the next version history number attached to the end of the naming convention.  And I still believe that those who benefit from the system see it one way and those who do not see it another way.

The comments and feedback seem to, for the most part, support the theory.  Those who seemed supportive were mostly fans who yearn for some change after this Olympic cycle comes to an end.  Those who believe the system in place is working are those who benefit.  The law of statistics right?  A program or process or policy where I receive something positive in return I support.  We see this in sport.  We see this in politics.  We see this in everyday life. 

Don't get me wrong, I love the debate.  On a weekly basis I ask all of you dear readers who I respect and appreciate to feel free to share your thoughts and comments with me in the comment section or on social media.  And some of you have.  The only expectation from both of us should be to have the conversation with respect and hear one another out.  Controversial topics pushing our way of thinking should be embraced....and I don't just mean in terms of this blog.  There are many blogs and podcasts out there covering this sport and they put in tireless hours towards a sport they have passion for, whether current and/or former players or fans of the game.  We can agree.  We can disagree.  But lets do it in a respectful manner and, before jumping off on someone who shares a different viewpoint, ask yourself "Have I really heard what they are saying or am I just responding because they are challenging what I believe?"

At the end of the day, this topic is not going away.  #TwineTime did not just "invent" this controversial debate for the sake of a blog post.  This has been something many people, myself included, have questioned for many years and will continue to do so.  This is still just the tip of the iceberg on the topic and I think more conversation, more opinions from all involved (players, organizing committees, governing bodies, fans, media, ect) and more debate is needed!

It was a tough week for #TwineTime folks, lets be honest.  Lots was going on....but there are two things I can assure you of:

  1. I will always stand by my right to have an opinion in this world, regardless if others agree or not.
  2. I will always appreciate those who follow this blog, read said opinion and agree or disagree with the topic at hand.  We all love this sport, lets show the love to all thoughts on it as well!

Alright, lets jump off the soap box and warm those sliders on the ice.  Here are this week's #IceWarmers and #BambiBumble teams: 

#IceWarmers

1.  Silvana Tirinzoni - #HoppSchwiiz!  Besides the upcoming Canadian Olympic Trials, the Swiss Olympic Trials were the most anticipated event leading into the upcoming Olympic Games.  The Swiss women have been a force to be reckoned with the past few years at both the World Championships and tour-level events.  With Tirinzoni joining Alina Paetz and Binia Feltscher (both recent world championship victors) it was expected to be a fierce battle for the #PyeongChang2018 ticket.  Well....it ended up being pretty anti-climatic and Tirinzoni blitzed the field posted a perfect 6-0 record in the triple round-robin format and earning her spot in Korea.  And we do mean EARNING folks!  She not only defeated two strong teams and former world champs (Feltscher is a two-time champ remember) but she did so without dropping a game and no playoff games required.  Those who pay close attention to #wct events over the past few years are not completely surprised here as Tirinzoni has been the most consistent of the three teams and did win the inaugural Tour Challenge #gsoc event in 2015.  However they have often struggled at the Swiss Championships, missing World Championship berths in the process.  This is a strong team and, regardless of who represents Canada, Switzerland should once again be considered a medal threat in February!


2.  Glenn Howard - Welcome back Glenn!  In a first for this season a team listed as the #1 #BambiBumble only one week ago sticks it to the #TwineTime over the weekend and goes on an incredible run.  Perhaps I was hasty in my opinion on you and the boys Mr. Howard.  I certainly stand corrected.  At the Canad Inns Men's Classic in Portage, MB this weekend, Team Howard rolled into the playoffs as one of the A-qualifiers, defeating Willy Lyburn, Brad Jacobs (!!) and John Epping along the way.  The W's piled up as the team sported a 5-0 record heading into the championship final after victories over Yusuke Morozumi (QF) and Mike McEwen (SF).  The team would lose the final to defending champ Reid Carruthers but it was certainly a welcome back announcement for the team who entered the weekend sporting an unimpressive 4-9 record on the season.  Let's see if they can build on this momentum now heading into the all-important pre-trials next month.

3.  Darcy Robertson - The Winnipeg, Manitoba #TeamUpset flag bearers are becoming regular fixtures in this section of the weekly #PowerRankings folks.  This past weekend they wowed the home crowd in picking up their first championship of the season, winning the Atkins Curling Supplies Classic.  The team went a perfect 6-0 en route to the title and now own a 27-14 record overall.  They have qualified in 5 of 6 events this year, including three straight SF appearances prior to this weekend's championship W.  Time to call them the favourites for the pre-trials?

4.  Susan Froud -  Did you just say who?  Come on....you all know Team Froud by now don't you?!  If not, you should start paying attention to this team from Waterloo, Ontario.  Why you ask?  Well how does qualifying in 3 of 4 events this season sound, including reaching the championship final is each of those playoff-bound events?  Well this weekend the team finally broke through and picked up the championship final W after falling short twice already this year.  Team Froud took home the Stroud Sleeman Cash Spiel (Froud Wins Stroud!! What a championship caption right?) in Stroud, Ontario.  The team actually lost their opening two games but rebounded nicely to go on a 5-0 run to the title.  The team owns a 16-8 record on the season now and is quickly becoming the #TeamUpset to watch in Ontario this year.

#BambiBumble

1.  Steve Laycock - What is going on with #TeamOranje this season?  The consistency we are used to seeing in not there and the results are floundering.  This past weekend in Portage the boys made a quick exit with a 1-3 record.  The week prior in Edmonton the team took the #CSideGrind road to the playoffs but were eliminated in the QF.  And the event prior to Edmonton the boys went 2-3 and were eliminated early.  This is not what we expected from the Sask team this season and, with the Olympic trials quickly approaching, you have to think this team needs to find the chemistry and magic on the ice once again before the season gets away from them.  Lets see how, or if, they rebound at The Masters next week.

2.  Alina Paetz - 4 straight events, 4 straight playoff appearances, 2 finals appearances and a championship win.  Not a bad season right?  So why would #TwineTime list a team with a season resume like this under the #BambiBumble for the week?  Well the Swiss Olympic Trials results speak for themselves folks.  With all the build up heading into the season and the team coming off a championship win in Stockholm for a trials tune-up momentum boost, how did this team finish 1-4 including 3 identical 6-7 losses to eventual winner Tirinzoni?  The scorelines show all close games but the final result is what really matters.  This was a tough and disappointing weekend for Team Paetz as they came into the trials with confidence, momentum and were considered by many the favourites given their resume for the year.  It will be interesting to see how they rebound from the disappointment now when they hit the ice in Lloydminster for the slam.  The season is not over by any means but the main goal of the year has now been eliminated and the rebound could be tough.

3.  John Epping - Again, consistency right?  It's not that Team Epping has had a bad start to the season but perhaps our expectation for the team are just at an all-time high now given how this team has performed the past few years and this being the Olympic year.  The team had a disappointing result in Portage where they won their opening 2 games to advance to the A-final but then suffered 3 straight losses to go home early.  Losing A, B and C-qualifier games is always a tough pill to swallow and losing to teams named Howard, McEwen and Shuster are not necessarily considered really "bad" losses either.  The boys will be hitting the ice this weekend in Gatineau to tune-up for the slam next week so lets see how they rebound.  The result last weekend was maybe not a full bumble slide down the ice but is was still shaky!

Here are the UPDATED Week 7 #PowerRankings:


MEN

1.  Team Gushue (LW: 1) - The world champs enjoyed a week off last week and will do the same this upcoming weekend to prepare for The Masters starting next week.  The team is on a hot streak though and this little break off the ice could make them even that much more dangerous in Lloydminster.

2.  Team Jacobs (2) - The Soo boys returned to the ice last weekend in Portage and did reach the playoffs, qualifying from the B-side.  They unfortunately were drawn against a strong Mike McEwen team in the QF and ended up bowing out sooner than many expected.  Still qualified though so we can't punish them too hard here.

3.  Team McEwen (NR) - Speaking of the former #redpants boys, their SF run in Portage boosts them up the #PowerRankings this week.  The team qualified B-side and survived the tough playoff draw against fellow B-winners Jacobs before running into a red hot Howard.  This was only their third event of the season, previously reaching the final at the Shorty Jenkins.  Always a threat, especially heading into their first slam of the season.

4.  Team Ulsrud (3) - After reaching the SF the previous weekend in Toronto, #TeamComfyBalls took last week off and will do the same this weekend to prepare for the upcoming slam event next week.  Ulsrud and the boys should be playoff contenders next week as well considering they have 2 championship final appearances under their belts already this season coupled with the recent SF finish.

5.  Team Edin (4) - Quick, when was the last time we saw the #SwedishVikings on the ice?  If you guessed end of September you would be correct.  After a QF loss in Basel (to Gushue), the boys have taken the last few weekends off to recharge themselves back home and enjoy the beauty of Sweden.  Well the waiting game is over as Edin returns to the competitive ice this weekend in Champery, Switzerland (where they are the defending champions) as a tune-up for the slam next week.  And ICYMI check out the team's facebook/instagram/twitter accounts for info on the new #VikingVan!

Hon. Mention:  Team Carruthers, Team Gunnlaugson, Team Howard, Team Koe, Team Tuck Jr.

WOMEN

1.  Team Hasselborg (LW: 1) - We have not seen the Swedish Olympic team in a few weeks now so we welcome them back to the ice this weekend in Portage at the Canad Inns Women's Classic.  A potential R2 match vs. Robertson could be fun.

2.  Team Homan (2) - Speaking of taking some time off, Team Homan skipped competitive play last weekend and will not be in Portage this weekend to defend their title from last year.  The team will be back on the ice the following weekend though for The Masters #gsoc event in Lloydminster.

3.  Team Tirinzoni (NR) - When you crush your compatriots to win your Olympic spot you better believe you make the biggest move in the Power Rankings this week!  Last week Paetz was ranked in this spot and Feltscher was HM.....Tirinzoni removed all doubt though with their trials win.  Congrats again Team Tirinzoni!

4.  Team Wang (4) - A week off to celebrate the tour W from the previous weekend leaves Team Wang sitting in their #4 spot.  They will be in Portage to compete this weekend.

5.  Team Robertson (NR) - Consistent results pay off and new you the coveted #5 spot in the rankings.  Lets see if they can continue the streak though against a very strong Canad Inns field.  An opening match vs another Manitoba #TeamUpset contender Shannon Birchard is intriguing.

Hon. Mention:  Team Jones, Team Kim, Team Paetz, Team Muirhead, Team Froud

Alright folks, this upcoming weekend sees a few big events on tour, namely in Portage for the women, but most teams are preparing for the grand slam event the following week.  We saw a few shake-ups in the rankings this week, expect to see perhaps a few more after this weekend and check back next week for the updated #PowerRankings heading into the slam.

On a side note, there will be no #TourLifePredictions blog post this week.  Last week was an emotional week for your boy and he is going to take the weekend off to recharge the batteries heading into a grand slam event.  Plus my best bud is coming to Canada from Oregon to visit for the weekend and I want to make sure he gets my undivided attention starting Thursday.  All about work life balance right folks?!

Also, a huge thank you to those who offered their support last week.  It truly meant a lot!

Enjoy your weekend everyone and #StayTuned for the return of #TwineTime next week with the Week 8 #PowerRankings and #TheMasters event preview.

And FYI, for those who didn't catch this in the beginning 352lbs is the approximate equivalent to the weight of 8 curling stones.