by Keith Borkowsky, The Curling Guy
The final Grand Slam, the Grey Power Players' Championships, has taken over Dawson Creek, B.C. While a lot of cash is out there, it's also the end of the line for a few teams, whether we know it or not.
Jeff Stoughton's Manitoba championship team has already announced a breakup and a reunion since the Brier. Kevin Park and Rob Fowler are out.
Longtime Stoughton third Jon Mead is back at third after taking a few years to play with Wayne Middaugh, and Steve Gould's rumoured departure for Newfoundland turned out to be nothing but a windstorm. The new recruit is Reid Carruthers, who will need some work done to his knee, will play second after skipping his own rink for years. The changes men Stoughton lost his guaranteed berth into the Safeway Championship and will have to earn it the hard way in the playdowns.
While this lineup makes sense, given the chemistry and Carruthers' desire to win now, this isn't a team built for a long haul. These four players can win, as long as they have the desire to work on their games. But Stoughton's 47 and would be in the neighbourhood of 51 at Sochi, Russia, if he qualifies for the next Olympics. Mead won't give a four-year commitment either, opting for year-by-year. That's good news for Manitoba finalist Mike McEwen, and a few new rinks with Brandon ties, who may now be poised to take over the role of Manitoba's top tea.
Fowler will skip a team of former Scottish junior champion Allan Lyburn, former Kerry Burtnyk second Richard Daneault and Derek Samagalski. If this squad gets its act together early, they could make some noise on the Brandon and Manitoba scene. Particularly interesting is Lyburn's decision to step back from a skipping role to play third. I like the move, as Lyburn will benefit from playing a senior role on a team without having to be "the guy".
Kevin Park is also reportedly looking to play in Manitoba again, possibly with former Alberta teammate Pat McCallum. Guess he likes the Manitoba format. And the relatively lax residency policy as the CCA listed him as an Edmonton-area resident in his bio at the Olympic curling trials.
Randy Ferbey has made his move to the Rock to play third for Brad Gushue. Not sure what to make of this move, with Ferbey being 50. He's got the fire and has won a ton. But is he past his prime?
On the women's side, an up-and-coming Manitoba squad skipped by Chelsea Carey also made a big move, when longtime skip and frequent Scotties Tournament of Hearts playoff participant Kristy Jenion called her up and asked to be her third.
That meant Kari White's departure, while Carey significantly upgraded her team.
As a skip, Jenion, rightly or wrongly, had a reputation for not being able to win the big game, and the pressure was getting to her. As a third on a top Manitoba team that can win the province, she will get to use her solid shot-making skills without the spotlight shining in her face. She will thrive in that situation.
And keep in mind. Jennifer Jones' Canadian championship means someone else will represent Manitoba, either defending champion Jill Thurston, Carey, or perhaps Kim Link, whose new third, Maureen Bonar, has four provincial women's titles to her name. Could have had a Canadian title too, in 1993, if it weren't for Sandra Schmirler.
Speaking of Thurston, a bizarre turn of events following the team's first appearance at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Sault Ste. Marie. The coach, Ron Westcott, apparently wanted third Kristen Phillips off the team, which didn't sit well with Thurston, who threatened to quit if that took place. So the coach resigned.
Raunora Westcott, Ron's daughter, and Leslie Wilson, who is engaged to Raunora's brother and Ron's son, also left the team.
Jenna Loder and Kendra Georges, Thurston's fifth at the Canadian championship, will replace the departing front end.
Rumours about what Jennifer Jones will do after the season is over remain just that — rumours. If I had to lay a wager, nothing happens unless Cathy Overton-Clapham says she wants out.
Should make for an interesting summer.
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