The 2018/19 curling season is unique. It is the post-Olympic season. It is the "trial and error" year for new team formations. It is a season where no points are tabulated towards the next Olympic cycle. It really is a year of purgatory in a way.
And the #TwineTime blog is taking up another level with the new proposed tour structure and rankings system. With each tour event, including Grand Slam of Curling and top international events, being allocated a event category the point structure can be very transparent and clear cut for athletes and fans.
But with the proposed blog changes also come up's and down's within the #PowerRankings. One week you can win an event but the next week, due to inactivity or inconsistency, you can quickly find yourself sliding right down the mountain.
Welcome to the curling version of the popular Price is Right game: Cliff Hangers!
You know this game right rock heads and stoners? A contestant is shown a prize and must guess how much this prize costs. For each dollar they are off from the actual price the mountain climber, commonly known as 'Hans', starts his climb up the mountain. This happens three times and as long as the combined guesses are under $25 difference, Hans will stay on the mountain and the contestant wins the big prize. Go over $25 and Hans slips up and takes a tumble off the side of the mountain.
Quite a morbid game when you think about it right? But the principle idea can relate to our rankings mountain for this curling season. Teams need to navigate their season by looking at the different tour structure events and plan their schedule accordingly. Take the risk and schedule only the big #Tour1000 events and underperform, boom over the mountain you go. On the flip side, underschedule, compete in mainly #Tour250 events and even pick up a few titles does not necessarily equate to climbing the mountain either as the other contestants climb faster and leave you at base camp.
This week brings us to Week 7 under the proposed #TwineTime ranking system. Have any of the teams started to figure out the #CliffHangers game properly and navigated the mountain to their advantage?
Heading into the weekend, Team Einarson seems to be playing the perfect game. They are a new team, facing many questions heading into the season. They have played a full schedule at this early point in the season. They played #Tour250, #Tour500 and #Tour1000 events and have shown consistent results across the board. Pick up 3 titles heading into Week 7 and you quickly find yourself at the top of the mountain. But the important factor is they continue to play at the same level with strong consistent results. Remember this is a new team so they didn't get the advantage many teams had heading into the season with a protected ranking. They have had to fight their way to the top and they have done so.
A similar argument for success could be made for Switzerland's Team Schwaller. They started the season with a modest #20 ranking, outside the #gsoc cutoff and sitting behind top Swiss team, and 2018 Olympic participants, Team De Cruz. They have also elected to play #Tour250, #Tour500 and #Tour1000 events. Heading into Week 7, they had qualified in 3 of their 4 events. They also picked up a #wct title. Now they are a regular fixture among the Top 5 on the #TwineTime rankings mountain. Results yield reward.
While Einarson and Schwaller seem to be playing the perfect game of Cliff Hangers thus far, others have slipped up along the way. From slow starts to begin the climb to strong early starts but unable to back up one or two strong weekends finds teams who may have been at or near the top going over the cliff and needing to start the ascend all over again. In looking at the history of the #PowerRankings this season, a few teams have been Top 5 but now are struggling to stay within the Top 10 or Top 15. Team Abe, Team Gunnlaugson, Team Calvert, Team Christensen and Team Flaxey started the season strong but then faltered while clinging near the top of the mountain and appear to have pushed 'Hans' over the top. The mountain seems to be as slippery as the competition ice for many teams this season.
The question now is which teams can play the game to stay at/near the top of the mountain and which will continue to falter and fall off the top. The mountain seems to be as slippery as the competition ice for many teams this season. And we are only in Week 7 folks. Lock in those carabiners folks!
Time for the celebration roll-call for those teams who had extra reason to give thanks over the Thanksgiving long weekend. Here are our #GunnerRunback results:
- At the #StokholmLadiesClassic in Stockholm, Sweden, the home nation fans had plenty to celebrate when not one but two Swedish teams made deep runs into championship weekend. In the end, the Olympic champion #SwedishVikings emerged victorious when Team Hasselborg defeated Team Sidorova in the final. Welcome back notes to another Olympic champ (2006, 2010) though when Anette Norberg, with daughter at vice, reached the SF along with Switzerland's Team Tirinzoni.
- In Basel, the #SwedishVikings made it two for two when the men's version, Team Edin, captured their first title of the season defeating Norway's Team Walstad in the final. This was a bit of revenge for Edin as he was eliminated in the opening leg of the Curling World Cup by losing both RR games to Walstad. The home nation fans had reason to celebrate though as both SF teams represented Switzerland, Team De Cruz and Team Schwaller.
- The #AutumnGoldClassic in Calgary saw one of the strongest fields on tour this season compete for the #Tour1000 title. In the end, #TeamSkipper emerged victorious when Team Einarson defeated defending Canadian and World champion Team Jones in the final, marking the second victory over Jones in the event. Team Homan and Team Fleury posted strong SF results.
- At the #StuSellsTO event, #TeamBFF followed up their run to a #gsoc final the previous week with going one better this week. Team Carruthers lifted the title over #TeamUpset flag bearer Team Thompson from Nova Scotia. Last year's Brier finalists Team Bottcher and another #TeamUpset contender Team McDonald rounded out the Top 4. For the women, a surprise winner emerged when Team Brunton captured the title over Team Auld. Team Tippin and Team Harrison were SF finishers.
- The #CureLupusCashSpiel in St. Paul, MN saw the emergence of two young teams taking home the top prize. For the men, Team Stopera ended the #TeamYoungBucks Team Fenner run with a strong championship final showing with Team Birr and #TeamUpset Team Birklid making SF runs. For the women, young Team Dubberstein knocked off favourite and more experienced Team Pottinger in the final. Team Viau and Team Kitchens were awarded SF points.
- Halifax hosted the #BudLightCashSpiel for the men and the #NewScotlandLadiesCashspiel for the women. The men's event saw another Team Thompson have a great Thanksgiving weekend as Kendal Thompson took home the title, while his brother reached the final in Toronto, defeating Team Stevens. SF appearances were made by Team Fitzner-Leblanc and Team Manuel. The women's draw saw defending NS Scotties champ Team Arsenault pick up her first title of the season when she knocked off Team Myketyn-Driscoll in the final. Team MacDiarmid and Team Birt rounded out the Top 4.
- Winnipeg hosted the #MCTClassic with a bit of a #TeamUpset champion. Team Riley Smith took home the title knocking off Team Dennis Bohn in the final. SF runs were made by past #TeamUpset flag bearer Team Dilello and Team Bale. This spiel also ended the two-event championship run by Team Lott as they were defeated in the QF by Team Bale.
5 men's events. 5 women's events. 4 #Tour1000 events. 6 #Tour250 events. Add it all up and there were MANY points sitting on the button this weekend for teams to draw down to. As mentioned above, the Power Rankings mountain can be a game of Cliff Hangers. Who are the teams who navigated the perfect climb this weekend and who tipped over the edge and took a stumble from the previous week?
Here are the NEW #PowerRankings:
- Team Epping - 1700 (LW: 1)
- Team Carruthers - 1495 (HM)
- Team Edin - 1300 (NR)
- Team Schwaller - 1040 (4)
- Team Jacobs - 940 (2)
- Team Einarson - 2010 (LW: 2)
- Team Hasselborg - 1750 (HM)
- Team Kovaleva - 1480 (1)
- Team Tirinzoni - 1290 (3)
- Team J. Jones - 1030 (NR)
The point totals are starting to bunch up and teams sitting on the mountain are all within striking distance for the top spot. For the men, Epping retains his perch at the top with his QF appearance this past weekend at the Stu Sells Toronto event. However, the gap continues to close as Carruthers and Edin collected big wins to move up while Schwaller continues his consistency mark of qualifying in events to stay within striking distance. The big mover is Nova Scotia's Stuart Thompson, following last week's #Tour250 win in reaching the #Tour1000 final in Toronto. He is only 500 points out of third right now and just on the cusp of the Top 5.
For the women, Einarson continues to prove the all-skip attack is the right way to go collecting title #4 this weekend in Calgary and retaking top spot on the rankings mountain. However she may not want to get too comfy up there with Sweden's Hasselborg going back-to-back weeks with big titles and not just climbing to the top but rather sprinting towards the #1 ranking. And what about the new team story of the season, Russia's Kovaleva? People may be expecting this team to dip in their results but against one of the strongest fields we will see on tour this season they held their own once again reaching the QF to follow-up their championship win the weekend before. Oh and that "other" Russian team? Sidorova just happened to make a run of her own in Stockholm reaching the final and now finding her footing on the mountain once again. We are this close to seeing two Russian teams in the Top 5 as Sidorova trails #5 Jones by less than 200 points!
#StayTuned for this weekend's #wct action as we once again see a full house with the women having 4 events, including a #Tour500 in Basel, and the men have 6 events, including another #Tour1000 in Portage. Once again, lots of points will be sitting on the ice for the teams competing.
PLUS we have our first world championship hitting the hack this weekend with the World Mixed Curling Championships in Kelowna. #TwineTime will be bringing you a preview of this event as well with 35 teams battling it out for world championship gold.