Monday, 26 February 2018

Post-Olympic Power Rankings

#BetweenTheSheets: Post-Olympic Hangover or Excitement?
How did the results in PyeongChang shake up the Power Rankings

Take a deep breath curling fans.  The four-year buildup of competition, anticipation and excitement over the 2018 Winter Olympics has come and gone.  Perhaps as fast as a #GunnerTakeout?!  Curling was the only sport to compete daily during the full duration of the Olympic calendar but it still feels like it went by quick did it not?

The results are in.  The podium is complete.  And now we are left with the after effects.  Are you suffering from the post-Olympic hangover or a new sense of post-Olympic excitement?

There were certainly a number of stories to capture the world's attention.  We had #TeamUpset results.  We had controversy.  We welcomed a new discipline.  We saw social media explode, for the good and the bad.  When we add it all up was the 2018 Winter Olympic curling competition a perfect hit for two, a boring first end blank or an open miss?  Let's summarize what happened....and update our #PowerRankings!

Now it is worth mentioning this blog has already published a mid-event grade report with my own personal opinions on how the Olympic curling competition was playing out.  So we will save some repetition here.  Do visit the midterm grade blog post though in combination with this post for a full comprehensive summary!  Here a few extra parting shots....

HIT: Host Success - Korea's women really sparked the interest of the entire host nation during their fairy tale through the competition.  Kim Eun-jung and her team of funny nicknames and infectious smiles and laughter brought new fans to the sport at home and will hopefully spark increased participation in the sport.  Sure Kim slide away with a silver medal when she was hoping for a gold but the fact she was playing in the gold medal match is an incredible accomplishment and she earned that silver medal!  What an impressive showing from the #GarlicGirls.

BLANK: Red (and White) Sorrow - Canada struggled.  We all know this.  For the first time in Olympic history both Canadian teams missed the podium.  It was also the first time a Canadian men's team not only failed to medal but failed to play in the Olympic final.  Are we disappointed?  Of course!  Canada loves curling and we always want to see the maple leaf fly high and watching our athletes belt out 'O Canada'.  But was this loss really as bad as people make it out to be?  Of course not!  The world isn't catching up....they caught up.  Great.  Excellent.  Bring. It. On!  If anything this Olympics reminded us to stay humble, continue to work hard and be at our best every game because we can expect our competition to do the same.  Lets be honest here.  In year's past we know our Canadian teams could struggle in a game and still come out on top due to being an overall stronger team.  Those days are gone.  They aren't coming back.  Every team wants to knock us off and its a compliment.  No medal sucks.  But the long-term win here could trump the short-term disappointment.

MISS: OAR O-NO - Well the struggles were real for the OAR.  The competition started strong when OAR's mixed doubles couple landed on the podium with a bronze medal finish.  And then everything fell apart.  The testing positive for a banned substance.  The stripping of the bronze medal win.  The struggles of the women's team after they fought just for a chance to make the Olympics by challenging defending world silver medal winning Team Sidorova.  The men's team didn't even qualify for the Olympic field.  Four years ago the hope was host Olympic Sochi would help build momentum for the sport in Russia.  Sure Sidorova and Moiseeva won European Championships and Sidorova reached a national best (and personal best) result at last year's world championships but where does the Russia Curling Federation go from here now?  Remember their mixed doubles team is also a past world champion and have won numerous tour events.  We never want to see a member association take huge step backwards with progress but this could be tough to overcome for current and future Russian curlers.

BLANK: USA Meh-OK - Ok Ok Ok I know what you are all saying.  The men won can you call this a blank and a "Meh-OK"?  And you are correct, this might be a bit unfair but here me out.  Yes Shuster's win was MONUMENTAL for the sport back home.  What the Team Shuster gold medal win is going to do for the sport should be huge for the future.  Curling rinks around the country were open late to host viewing parties....which turned into all-night celebrations.  Mr. T called the boys prior to the final to give a pep talk (which worked obviously).  People who have never even heard of or watched a rock of curling in their lives were not full-on invested in the sport and the men becoming Olympic Champions.  These are all positives.  But what about the women?  Team Roth underperformed this week.  They struggled.  When you look at the final standings you see them sitting at 4-5 and 8th place.  Sure they are only a game out of the playoffs but it was not an easy tournament for them.  Roth came to Korea with a lot of momentum, perhaps more than Shuster based on tour results this season.  The women's field was, in theory, more wide open which both makes Shuster's win more remarkable and Roth's results disappointing.  I am excited to see where the #growthesport prospectus post-Olympics for USA Curling but we need to see the success on both sides of the stone.  And you can hunt me down and argue/disagree!  I expect it....

HIT: #SwedishVikings - Many people expected Sweden to once again flex their muscles in PyeongChang and they did not disappoint.  Anna Hasselborg eliminated the monkey off her back as having the reputation on not being able to close out championship games when they dominated the gold medal match vs. host Korea.  This gold medal win was Sweden's third gold in the past four Winter Olympic competitions (2006, 2010, 2018).  No nation has been as consistent and no nation can say they own the Olympic curling podium like the Swedish women.  Niklas Edin came to Korea as one of the favourites and, as expected, reached the gold medal final.  They were expected to see a North American opponent but nobody saw USA being that representative.  Perhaps it was nerves or heavy expectation as the overwhelming favourite or whatever the reason but Team Edin struggled and looked uneasy throughout the final and just couldn't pull out the W.  However, winning an Olympic silver medal is still an accomplishment.  This was Edin's third Olympics and he has steadily improved each time: 4th (2010), Bronze (2014), Silver (2018).  No other curler can claim that steady and consistent Olympic resume.  The #SwedishVikings proved they are the top curling nation right now.  Congrats to Team Hasselborg and Team Edin for their podium finishes.

BLANK: #PACC Success - We already discussed the success of the Korean women winning the silver medal but what about the rest of the Pacific-Asia delegation?  While the Japanese women also created history when they stole, literally, the bronze medal from the pocket of defending Olympic bronze medal winner Eve Muirhead and Team Great Britain.  Prior to 2018 only one PACC nation ever reached the curling podium, men or women, and that was China's Bingyu Wang in 2010.  This year we saw two nations find the podium on the women's side.  Historical!  Speaking of Wang, she finished 4-5 in 5th place.  Quick summary, 3 of the Top 5 women's teams in the final standings are Pacific-Asia nations.  Impressive!  Now....what about the men?  Well a bit different result.  The Korean and Japanese men certainly put our respectable results both finishing 4-5 for a 7th and 8th place finish.  Team Morozumi and Team Kim are both great teams but we are still waiting for their break-out results on the international stage.

MISS: Rotten in the State of Denmark - In December there was jubilation and excitement for Danish curling when both the men's and women's teams survived the stressful Olympic Qualification Event to advance to the Winter Olympic field.  Come the end of February and we are left wondering what the future holds once again for the small European nation.  Both teams finished 10th in the standings with a combined record of 3-15.  Sure the Danish women defeated Canada....which also happened to be their only win.  Small victory I suppose when you get to knock off Canada at the Olympics.  But when 4 other teams also knock off Canada the win doesn't seem as spectacular.  The Danish men will start next season in the Euro C-Division.  Dupont will lead her women to the upcoming world championships hoping for redemption.  Time will tell what happens next but with sport funding under the microscope in many European countries, these kind of results are disappointing to see for future growth in the sport.

HIT (for now) - Curling Bandwagon - Mr. T.  Ellen.  JJ Watt.  TJ Watt.  The list goes on and on with celebrities who discovered their love and passion for the great game while watching the Olympic coverage.  Social media LIT up with tweets featuring #curling.  Everything the sport hoped for and wanted as a result of the Olympic coverage happened.  Heck we even had Kirstie Alley tweet how she found curling boring and curling fans pounced and attacked her for it.  Now I don't agree with that as she is entitled to her opinion and I never enjoy SM bullying.  I almost want to ask each of those people who attacked her if they have a sport they tried watching and found boring and never watched again.  Don't be a hypocrite curling fans and let people have their opinion!  My offer still stands by the way....join the blog family Ms. Alley and lets talk curling (if any of you know her put in a good word for me ok?!).  The important piece here is people were talking about curling.  Each draw.  Each day.  For the entire duration of the Olympics.  How cool is that?  Do I expect teams like Shuster and Koe and other "elite" grand slam teams to capitalize on these moments and help merge the realm of celebrity and curling over the next few months?  Of course!  But will this also increase TV watch numbers for #gsoc events?  World Championships?  Will people who had no interest in curling in the past now attend live events?  And, most importantly perhaps, will people check out their local curling club?  Will we see numbers rise in attendance and participation?  I am not sold yet.  Could this be simple Olympic excitement or will there be actual long-term engagement benefit?  Of course we won't know right away but lets reassess the status of the sport in Canada, USA, Korea and other nations in a year from now or two years from now.  As a full #growthesport enthusiast I want nothing more than seeing an increase in the sport from every angle possible.  But just because some celebrities tweet about watching curling and our top athletes go on TV shows or radio shows or film curling spots with these celebrities does not equate long-term success.  We still need grassroots growth.  We still have work to do folks.  The star is shining bright for curling right now....but the "famous" angle is not going to keep the star shining bright alone.  This is on all of us to continue moving forward with the sport. This is where I am interested to see just how the sport has benefited from the Olympic coverage and results.  Are people going to gravitate to watch the sport on TV?  Online?  In person?  Time will tell....and the responsibility will be on all of us as fans of the sport!

The Olympic competition is over but the curling season is far from being complete.  We still have three Grand Slam of Curling events for the top men's and women's teams (ok only two for the women thanks to the continued one-sided hosting of the Elite 10 UGH!).  The men's and women's world championships are upcoming too.  And, here in Canada, the Tim Hortons Brier begins this week in Regina, SK to crown our next Team Canada and who will wear the maple leaf in Las Vegas.

Now you know the #PowerRankings must have seen a shakeup with the Olympic results right?  It has actually been a month since we took a look at the Power Rankings mountain.  Here are the NEW and UPDATED Power Rankings:


1.  Team Edin (LR: 1) - Sure they lost the gold medal game BUT let the final result not overshadow their overall body of work in PyeongChang.  They may not have finished atop the podium but they were the strongest team throughout the RR (7-2 record) and absolutely dominated the future bronze-medal winning Swiss in the SF.  They retain their top ranking, no questions asked!

2.  Team Shuster (NR) - #TwineTime cannot ignore the roll these boys went on to finish on top.  Midweek the struggles were real.  The team was not curling well.  The team was not communicating well.  They barely looked like they were enjoying anything about being in the Olympics.  And then it all changed.  Sitting at 2-4 after one-sided losses to Sweden, Japan and Norway, they went on a roll like none other.  They defeated Canada.  They defeated Switzerland.  They defeated Great Britain.  They defeated Canada again in the SF.  Then they completed the #TeamUpset "Miracle on (Curling) Ice" knocking off Sweden for gold.  Incredible!  Team #StarsAndStripes deserve the accolades and praise for putting together one of the best runs we have ever seen in Olympic curling to claim the win.  Congrats Team fought your way up this mountain and deserve this spot.

3.  Team de Cruz (3) - Lets remember de Cruz and company started their Olympic campaign 0-2 with losses to Great Britain and Italy.  They finished the RR 5-4, meaning they needed to win 5 of their last 7 games just to make a tiebreaker.  It is never easy to start 0-2 at an event, especially the Olympics.  But to start 0-2 and end the event with a bronze medal around your neck says a lot about how resilient and talented this team is.  They gained revenge on Great Britain for the TB.  Sure the lopsided loss to Sweden in the SF hurt but they rebounded with a nice bronze medal win over Canada.  And this coming off winning their inaugural grand slam event before the Olympics.  For sure making a case for team of the year folks!

4.  Team Koe (2) - Ok the end result was heartbreaking.  Koe finishing off the podium in 4th place when they looked to be one of the top two teams throughout the RR was disappointing.  But it wasn't like this team played horrible either.  Yes the 3-game losing streak midweek sucked but they did recover to make the playoffs and earn the number two seed.  A 6-3 RR finish is very respectable at the Olympics folks.  Have you finished 6-3 or better at the Olympics?  Nope didn't think so.  This is still one of the best teams on the planet and deserving of a spot in the Top 5.

5.  Team Smith (HM) - I don't think any team garnered less attention throughout the Olympic schedule than Team Great Britain's Kyle Smith.  They were not consistent in PyeongChang.  They would win a game then lose a game.  Win again and then lose two straight.  But then win two straight.  They had their opportunity in the final RR game to eliminate USA and punch their direct ticket to the playoffs and faltered....and then couldn't recover in the TB vs Switzerland.  But they did have the opportunity sitting on their brooms and on their rocks and just were unable to close the deal in both games vs USA and Switzerland.  But a 5-4 TB finish is still very respectable and, given the struggles this team had earlier in the year, they showed they are one of the top up and coming teams.

Hon. Mention:  Team Jacobs, Team McEwen, Team Pfister, Team Gushue


1.  Team Hasselborg (LR: HM) - Olympic champions.  What more can we really say?  The shortfalls of the past have been well documented.  They were a dominating RR team, even with the loss to Korea and finishing second at 7-2.  But the fear was creeping into the back of everyone's minds.  The history of past European Championships, World Championships and #GSOC finals.  Strong play during the RR and throughout the competition UNTIL that final game.  Well bye bye monkey...back to the jungle for you.  Team Hasselborg finally finished the job and concluded what most of us have always known and thought....this is one of the best teams in the world!  They are going to be even more dangerous moving forward now with this confidence!

2.  Team Kim (HM) - What an Olympics for the home nation!  This blog has been commenting for awhile now how strong Team Kim and Korean curling has become in the past year and a half and Kim's result proved to the world what #TwineTime and others have been saying.  An 8-1 RR record.  A "Match of the Year" candidate SF vs. Japan.  This team is the real deal.  I am excited to see what they have up their sleeves for a follow-up now.  They are rock star celebrities back home and hopefully they can continue to help #growthesport back home while also pushing towards the top of the podium in events they enter on tour and at future world championships.  A historic result for Korean curling comes with great expectations now.  But what a coming out party to the world.....

3.  Team Fujisawa (NR) - We all knew Japan's Fujisawa had the game to be successful at the Olympics.  They did win a silver medal only two years ago at the world championship.  But then they fell apart last season.  They missed last year's world championship due to failing to finish Top 2 at the #PACCs.  They struggled on tour.  We really were not sure what to expect from them in PyeongChang.  Some predicted a medal (which they proved correct in winning bronze).  Some predicted a moderate 4-5 record.  Some predicted a bottom of the standings record.  They may have been the most polarizing team coming into the competition.  But they hushed their critics in reaching the playoffs with a 5-4 record and playing rival Korea to one of the best curling games you will ever see.  They suffered the tough loss but rebounded beautifully for a dramatic #StealPants bronze medal win.  Historic for Japanese curling once again!  Similar question to Korea's Kim now....what do they do next?

4.  Team Muirhead (5) - Well that certainly wasn't the end result Eve Muirhead was looking for.  The bronze medal winner from 2014 was trying to replicate the podium finish in PyeongChang and looked to be well on her way until the wheels came off.  Tie game with hammer playing 9.  Who wouldn't take the bet Muirhead wins that game more often than not?  A steal in 9 and then missing her final shot in 10 to score 2 and win the bronze medal...nobody can say they saw that coming!  However, do not let this final game overshadow a strong week of curling from the Team GB reps.  Muirhead finished 6-3 in the RR for a 3rd place finish.  Muirhead continues to be one of the best teams in the world year in and year out.  This result is going to sting but remember she is only 27yo and just played in her 3rd Olympics.  What is the theme of these Power Rankings?  Consistency!

5.  Team Feltscher (HM) - Well everyone was focused on the Winter Olympics, the Switzerland national championships were being contested.  When the women's event came to a close, two-time world champion Binia Feltscher came out on top and booked her spot in the upcoming World Championships.  Feltscher, a #TwineTime fam member, will be looking for her 3rd world title in a few weeks....her third in five years...and all in even number years....and all when hosted by Canada.  Yikes!  The curling world continued to spin around the world outside the Olympic rings and Team Feltscher could be eyeing up another world championship win folks.  Watch out!!

Hon. Mention:  Team Jones, Team Homan, Team Tirinzoni, Wang

There you have it folks.  Updated Power Rankings.  A few hits and misses (and blank ends) tossed during the 2018 Winter Olympics.  What say you rock heads and stoners?  Agree?  Disagree?

Also, thank you once again to those who participated and/or donated to the #TwineTime Winter Olympics 50/50 Pool.  In the end, Team NWT's Shona Barbour was the most consistent player all week and earned herself the gold medal.  #PolarPower indeed!  The #TwineTime blog picked up a silver medal win and curling podcast 2 Girls And A Game took home the bronze.  Final standings are available HERE.  But bigger thanks goes to the real winner: Canadian Cerebral Palsy Sports Association!  They will receive a donation over $400 as a result of the pool.....and with both #TwineTime and 2 Girls And A Game adding their pool winnings to the overall donation amount!

#StayTuned as the #Brier2018 Preview will be sliding into your house shortly....and with a very special guest joining the blog to help set the stage for new format and a very competitive field.

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