On My Best Guess: Women's
Well, well, well...
So it’s been a couple of weeks. A crazy couple of weeks indeed. Gushue wins the Brier with 3 guys. Team Jennifer Jones splits, but JJ isn’t retiring. Dawn McEwen IS retiring. So is John Morris. Brad Jacobs is taking a year. A bunch of teams have called it quits. We are fully into silly season, and it feels even more crazy than ever before.
I wrote a few weeks ago about the men’s situation. Unfortunately now, I know too much. Sometimes information is a curse. So I can’t really update you any more on what’s going on there, but I can say you can expect at least some team formation announcements in the next week or so. Maybe some of the teams will even let me leak some fun stuff in the lead up. xoxo, gossipcurl.
As for the ladies, things were taking a bit longer, and so I couldn’t really put together a sensible predictions column…until now. Before I get into it, I will once again state the following caveat:
All of these predictions are based on educated guesses. I haven’t spoken to any of the players involved and I don’t know anything 100%. So if you’re a fan, please feel free to disagree with me and don’t take these predictions as gospel. If you’re a player, and I’m right…well, consider me lucky.
As I said back at the forefront of my men’s piece, I think teams were waiting on Jennifer Jones, and to a lesser extent, Kerri Einarson. Most teams needed to see what those two teams were going to do before they were willing to make their own moves. Well, we now know Team Jones is split as we know it, and I think Kerri Einarson stays together. I had originally speculated that perhaps Val would move on and Shannon would move up the lineup, but three consecutive Scotties titles is really tough to compete with. Barring some disaster at the Worlds, I think they stay together. Jones, on the other hand…
Here’s what I said back in December, after the Trials:
IF Jennifer Jones retires, there’s no doubt in my mind Kaitlyn starts skipping. And if Kaitlyn starts skipping, she’s essentially the Big Bad Wolf who blows the house of cards right over. If Jenn retires, I think Dawn goes too. I think Jocelyn goes back to Alberta to play there, either as a skip herself or slides into a role with Laura Walker, and I think Kaitlyn starts poaching Manitoba players to play with her, probably taking pieces from Fleury’s team and some others. But that’s a big IF!
Here’s what I said back at the start of March, at the top of my men’s predictions:
Before we get to the men’s, I’ll just say that I don’t really have a great handle on the ladies situation. I think there are two big reasons for that: Team Jones and Team Einarson. Those two teams making the Olympics and Worlds has really kicked the can down the road, because if Jenn is retiring, Kaitlyn will skip and will basically have her pick of teammates and that could jostle the Jenga Tower for everyone, and if Einarson decides to part ways (or even loses a single player), that will also create opportunities people will want to wait for.
Well, Kaitlyn is about to jostle that Jenga Tower, and a lot of the Jenga pieces reveal that they have “Team Fleury” written on them. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that less than a week after we see the Team Jones announcement, we get the announcement that Team Fleury has called it quits as well. Early speculators pointed out that it seemed natural that Kaitlyn would be picking up the entirety of Team Fleury, which seemed feasible, but then Liz Fyfe posted this to her Instagram story:
So while I do think I was right back in December about Kaitlyn teaming up with Team Fleury pieces, I think I was wrong about Jocelyn. I believe she stays with Kaitlyn and the team is Kaitlyn Lawes, Selena Njegovan, Jocelyn Peterman, and Kristin MacCuish.
It’s essentially the same unit that played in Anaheim for Curling Night in America, minus Lisa Weagle. I don’t know what Lisa is doing next season, but she’s basically been skipped her entire career by two of the best skips to ever play the game in Rachel Homan and Jennifer Jones. So where do you go from here? Maybe she would’ve been involved with this team if those pesky residency rules weren’t in place (as has been reported extensively elsewhere, Jocelyn will be living in Alberta with fiancé Brett Gallant so she would be this team’s import), but I don’t know. All we know is Lisa is one of the best leads ever and with Dawn McEwen retiring, you could make the case she’s the best Canadian women’s lead available. So we’ll see where she finds herself but I’m sure she’ll have a ton of offers.
And now where does that leave Liz and Tracy? I’m not entirely sure. I think there might be a Manitoba team to be made if they stay together and play with Kate Cameron (more on Team Walker in a bit) and another Manitoba piece (Any of the pieces from Darcy Robertson’s team? Or Kristy McDonald’s?), but I have seen people theorize maybe Tracy joins McCarville back in Northern Ontario…which might be possible. Just not sure who would skip, as I think both Tracy and Krista are most natural at the tee-head. But it would certainly be a fan favourite team if they ever put it together. I just know Krista McCarville’s team said they “hadn’t stopped believing” on Twitter, which I took to more or less mean they were sticking together. But if Tracy is available…perhaps you find a way to make it work. Maybe the solution for being able to play just a little bit more is a 5-person team? More on Tracy in a bit.
The next box to tick off is Jennifer Jones. I was a little surprised to see she wasn’t retiring. Not that I know her personally and speculating on retirement is always a fool’s errand in this sport, but she’s accomplished basically everything you can accomplish. The fact she still wants more is a testament to her competitiveness but also her love for the game. And I’m thinking she’s gonna pass the love of the game on to Mackenzie Zacharias next season. Jen made a point in interviews to say that she’d like to continue playing out of Manitoba, and for me, the only Manitoba-based squad that makes sense is Mack Zack and the Attack. Yes, they’re a great young team and you might say, “well why wouldn’t they just stay together?” Well if you’re not even 23 and have a chance to learn from the GOAT…I think you take that chance. Plus, sometimes we forget that the points next year don’t matter for Olympic qualification so if it doesn’t work, to even get a year of mentorship under JJ is worth it, in my opinion. The tradition in curling always used to see older skips “pass the torch” so to speak, and it was far more common to see younger players team up with older ones. Hell, Jenny did it herself when she was younger (albeit at skip). There’s no doubt in my mind someone who has the respect for the game Jenn does might want to do the same thing with her last few seasons.
And you’ll say, “but John! There are four players on the team! Mack Zack is one and the Attack is three! With Jennifer that makes five!” And to you, my friend, I say: why not all 5? It’s clear Jennifer wanted to try to get a grand experiment going with a true 5-person team when they brought Lisa aboard, but COVID had other plans. This seems like the ideal opportunity to do it here. You know Mack Zack can skip in a pinch, obviously. Karlee Burgess can play up and down the lineup. Lauren Lenentine has plenty of back-end experience and is in the house when Mackenzie throws now. Why upset the apple cart? I think this is the option that makes the most sense for Jen and everyone else.
Let’s move over to the next great area of interest, Alberta. Rachel Homan lives in Edmonton, even though she is an Ontario skip, is this when she starts playing out of Alberta? Well, I think she’d have the chance to choose either. There was a time when I wondered if Rachel and Emma were splitting, and there was also a time where I wondered if Rachel was playing. Rachel is playing, and I’m guessing they stay together and keep Sarah Wilkes in the fold as well. As for the fourth player? I’m thinking it’s none other than Laura Walker. I don’t know this for sure but I do think Laura’s team is finished, and I think Rachel probably represents her next best option (outside of perhaps trying to put together a team herself, but that could get complicated). The only thing here is that Tracy Fleury might complicate this whole picture, because I’m not sure it was known to teams she was available until very recently. Could she take a team of Laura and some other Albertans? If Rachel and Emma are splitting, could she take Emma? And Sarah? But I think it’s Rachel/Emma/Sarah/Laura, and given where they were born and where they live, could actually choose to play out of Ontario or Alberta, though I think there’s a chance Sarah is moving back to Ontario, which would mean they would have to choose the Trillium. We’ll see where that goes.
In more boring news, I think Kelsey Rocque and her team stay together. They weren’t a team for very long with COVID, and as I’ve said before, her and Danielle Schiemann are a great pair and you can’t find too many better front ends than Pooks and Ferg, both in terms of chemistry and shotmaking. I think they’re one of the few (only?) Trials teams I feel relatively confident in saying they’re sticking together, and I think this next quad we’re gonna see some big things out of Kelsey.
Now…what does Casey Scheidegger do? If she’s willing to move down a spot, does SHE take on Tracy Fleury? (I noted in my last newsletter Tracy would have lots of options, and she will). My stealth pick here? Nadine Scotland at third. Nadine was a dynamite skip and I’m sure would love to go back to playing back end after her detour playing lead for Laura Walker. I think her vibe would mesh very nicely with the Scheidegger sisters and Kristie Moore, and I think she’d be a solid addition to the squad and perhaps just the right piece to revitalize the mix.
That leaves a few Alberta pieces out in the cold: Taylor McDonald, Chelsea Carey (even though she most recently played out of Saskatchewan). I don’t think they’re playing with each other, so maybe Taylor finds a spot as an import somewhere, and maybe Chelsea does too. Chelsea would probably have more options in her birthright province of Manitoba, with the top-tier teams not named Jones and Fleury who are also splitting leaving some pieces hanging around.
One stealth name perhaps on the move as well and who could be factoring in to some of these theoretical lineups is Erin Pincott. I love Team Corryn Brown and would love for them to stay together forever, but Pincott’s appearance at the Olympic Trials as alternate for Team Walker was notable. I know other teams have a lot of respect for her game. If Team Brown is indeed done (and I have no clue if they are), then I don’t know where Erin goes but I wouldn’t be surprised to see her matching up with a very solid team as well.
Ontario? Your guess is as good as mine, friend. As I’ve alluded to before, Ontario and B.C. (my home province) are just never great curling matches for each other. B.C. is too far and so we rarely got Ontario teams playing out here on the WCT (plus the OCT points are/were too good to ever wanna leave) and we never made it that far either. So admittedly, my knowledge is lacking. We’d start with Scotties representative Hollie Duncan, naturally, and it’s tough to know what happens there. As we saw at the Scotties, two of the team members were pregnant, Rachelle Strybosch and Hollie herself. That does mean that they likely won’t be pregnant by the fall (I understand biology), but you never know what a kid or kids at home can do to a curler. At Ontario Scotties, we’re gonna see a totally rejigged lineup with Sherry Middaugh dusting off the cleats to skip and Julie Tippin playing third as Duncan and Strybosch sit out. I think they had a great year and were another team that didn’t get a full run with Megan Balsdon at third due to COVID. I would imagine if they’re all playing, they stick together.
We saw a shift already with Jestyn Murphy’s rink, as Jestyn has decided to embrace #LeadCulture and move down the lineup, with Carly Howard taking over at skip. That’s another team that I would have to imagine sticks together if that experiment at the Ontario Scotties (being held in April due to the COVID cancellation) goes well.
Speaking of the Ontario Scotties, if you take a peek at the Ontario Scotties website, the “Teams” page has a notable absence—Team Harrison. Team Wasylkiw has taken their spot, and it could be a case that there was some extenuating circumstance that prevented Team Harrison from playing, but hell, Team Duncan is playing without their skip and second. We can likely assume that means they’re finished.
So which lineups get Frankensteined out of some of these pieces? WHO KNOWS. But I think the Ontario Scotties and the subsequent results might tell us a lot.
That leaves Saskatchewan and once again, your guess is as good as mine. Chelsea Carey took a Saskatchewan squad up to #11 in the world rankings, but a sketchy Scotties performance and Carey probably having offers might see this team be done, though I did think Chelsea and third Jolene Campbell were a natural pair. With Sherry Anderson retiring from non-Seniors play, it puts a couple interesting names into the mix there, but where that shakes out? We’ll have to listen to the wheat blowing in the wind to see if it’ll tell us.
I think that about does it. I don’t know much, but one thing I do know is that this next 10-14 days is gonna be a really fun one in the curling world. Strap in and enjoy the ride.
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