Sunday, December 13, 2009

Quick thoughts about the Olympic Trials

by Keith Borkowsky, The Curling Guy
In past years, favourites heading into the Canadian Olympic curling trials often ended up watching the Olympics on TV.

This year will be different as far as the men go, and either Kevin Martin or Glenn Howard have shown they truly deserve the honour.

If there was any doubt about that, the solid play and 6-1 round robin records showed it in spades. And while Jeff Stoughton curled a decent game against the Ontario skip, whose day job is managing a beer store — a very popular man in the patch when the bar goes dry — Howard proved with a perfect third end shot that his game is capable of beating the men's best. Pick up the action the 10 minute mark on the third end clip to see it for yourself. You'll be glad you did.

That effectively ended toughton's dream and prevented a rematch of the 2009 Brier final. Still, today's title game, set for 3 p.m. Eastern, should be a dandy.

On the women's side, Cheryl Bernard is a solid choice to represent Canada in Vancouver. The biggest surprise has to be the failure of defending Canadian champion Jennifer Jones to even reach the playoffs. They said it best in interviews this week. They weren't good enough.

Jones is a noted slow starter at Canadian or World championships and had proven it's dangerous to give her second chances to beat you. But this time, her slow start caught up with her. It will be interesting to see how she reacts to that when the Scotties take to the ice in Sault Ste. Marie (Jan 10-Feb. 7).

As for the Olympics, the best team may not have prevailed, but the best team on the given week required did. Canada still wound up with a solid representative on the women's draw, and will have an excellent one for men's competition.


Dennis Prouse said...

I am not a fanatical follower of curling like my dad is, but as a good Canadian I do pay attention. :-)

I gather that the Kelly Scott rink from BC REALLY underperformed last week. What up 'dat? I thought they would have been one of the favourites on the women's side.

sager said...

There are good columns to be had on whether Olympic Trials are the best way to pick our one team.

It is a huge cash cow for Canadian Curling Association, which is why they stage it instead of using a points system based on WCT play. Cheryl Bernard doesn't have the rep of Kelly Scott or Jen Jones, so you can anticipate the howling if her team does not win gold (and one of those other rinks goes on to win the Scotties and/or Worlds).

At the same time, I do wonder what people said when Brad Gushue emerged as the men's rep for Turin. Perhaps the same thing!

Anonymous said...

Dennis, sorry for the delay in getting back to you.
This is Keith replying. For some reason, I can't log in.

It is true Kelly Scott underperformed, but her decline over the past year or so means that didn't have as much impact as the Jones free fall. Scott didn't even make provincials last year, so she had a lot of ground to make up. There's no way she was a favourite, or even a dark horse. Jones, Bernard and Kleibrink were the favourites, with Lawton having the best shot at dark horse status,

Scott managed to have an impact on Jones. It was her final round robin loss that eliminated Jones.

Jones's failure to qualify for the Olympics will likely have an impact on her roster. My prediction is Jones will be shopping around for a new third following the Scotties in Sault Ste, Marie, as she prepares for the next Olympic cycle.

On the men's side, that panned out without too many surprises. The right three teams made it to the playoffs, though I really believe if Koe could get out of Alberta once or twice and play in a Brier, he would emerge as a dominant team. Koe's team in BC would clean up, as he would in Saskatchewan, with all due respect to guys like Joel Jordison and Pat Simmons.

Manitoba has a good enough scene to send two teams to the trials. After Gunnalaugson's performance, he's legitimately four years away. Mike McEwen would have fared better this time around, but Gunner beat him at the pre-trials.