Predicting the Next Quad: Women's
The 1000% Wrong Edition.
If you haven’t read my piece predicting the next quad for the men’s Trials teams, you can head here and do that now. Mostly because I’m not going to repeat the entire intro for that article here. But basically, the ladies’ teams are much tougher to predict because I think the entire 2022-23 season hinges on two things: whether or not Jennifer Jones and Rachel Homan keep playing. The two pillars of the women’s game for the last decade, it’s entirely possible we see a curling landscape without either of them playing, and if that’s the case…things will get pretty real in a hurry. If they both play or even one of them does, I think we’ll see a lot of stasis in the women’s game for next season due to a combination of results, convenience, and location. As per my men’s article, two reminders:
If you’re a fan reading this article…I have no insider knowledge whatsoever. Yes, a lot of these curlers are my friends and I talk to them quite a bit, but nothing in here is anything other than a 100% blind guess. So please don’t read into any of this as some sort of “curling insider” thing. It’s just for fun.
If you’re a player in this article…don’t get mad at me. I’m probably wrong and this is just a fun thought exercise. If you think I’m super wrong, then great. Your covert operations are working perfectly. And if you think I’m super right…no one will believe I’m right anyway. So just have fun with it like I am and DM me if I’m REALLY right. I won’t tell. ;)
For the men’s, I went in reverse order of the standings for the Trials and I’m going to do the same here with one exception.
Team Jones (Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jocelyn Peterman, Dawn McEwen, Lisa Weagle)
I’m starting here because I think right now, the entire women’s game is a house of cards and it’s being held up by Jennifer Jones winning the Trials as its foundation. If Jennifer Jones decides not to play next season, that pushes Kaitlyn Lawes into the role we’ve been earmarking her for over the last decade: a premier skip.
First, Jennifer. There are some scenarios where it’s easy to imagine her retirement. She wins gold and decides to retire at the pinnacle. She misses the medals and decides she’s had enough. Maybe she’s decided to retire no matter what. I don’t envision her playing another full quad but what I could see is if she wins a medal (particularly gold), she takes all the sponsorship/media opportunities that come with that next season in a Derek Jeter-style one-year retirement tour. Curlers don’t generally do that but her teammates can afford to throw away a season for points purposes and the fans love Jenn and would probably love that. But I digress.
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!
Team Homan (Rachel Homan, Emma Miskew, Sarah Wilkes, Joanne Courtney)
Hard to imagine that Rachel Homan finished last at the Trials (wonder what odds CoolBet would’ve given you on that one), and it’s led lots of people to speculate that Rachel is going to take a hiatus. I dunno, man. I get it, she has two kids, she’s had as crazy of a schedule as you could imagine, and at the Trials she just looked tired. Her interviews all seemed to have the same theme of “I don’t really know what’s wrong” and generally when it gets there, it’s easy to think they’re finished. I just think Rachel still has some juice and her competitive nature has been what’s made her good. I can’t imagine she walks away on the back of that result. I think it’s just as likely she comes back, and with the same team. It’s only been a year and a COVID-shortened year with Sarah, and if you’re a player under Rachel Homan, you don’t walk away from that opportunity. She’s not firing Emma. So unless you’re getting rid of the best sweeper in women’s history in Joanne who can play either front end position (or Joanne walks away from the sport), I think we could see the same team back next season.
I will make one bonus prediction though: IF Rachel does take a hiatus, when she comes back, she’s playing out of Alberta.
Team Harrison (Jacqueline Harrison, Alli Flaxey, Lynn Kreviazuk, Laura Hickey)
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know an awful lot about Ontario curling, as I rarely got out there as a player and the OCT is such a good situation that a lot of Ontario teams don’t leave there much either. So I don’t know a whole lot about Team Harrison but I will say that Alli Flaxey looked like her natural position is at third and so I could see her staying there either with this team or somewhere else in Ontario or Northern Ontario. Another team I could see staying together completely though for sure.
Team Rocque (Kelsey Rocque, Danielle Schmiemann, Dana Ferguson, Rachelle Brown)
Kelsey Rocque had maybe the quietest Second All-Star finish in a major event you can have, as she was second only to Tracy Fleury in skip percentages throughout the week. Schmiemann? Also second. Rachelle Brown was third. A huge reason for that is their finish to the Trials. They had an unfortunately slow start, but Kelsey curled close to 90% over their last 4 games and they won their last two, including beating Einarson, who were desperately fighting for a playoff spot. What I’m saying here is: Kelsey Rocque is coming. This quad is gonna see her emergence as a top skip, which I think is her natural position and I don’t see her moving down to play third unless it’s for a really and truly golden opportunity. Schmiemann’s great run with John Morris at the Mixed Doubles was no accident and she’s been playing with Rocque for a long time, they’re a great combination. I would imagine Dana and Rachelle, one of the best and most affable front ends in the game, would look around Alberta and understand this is their best situation (barring Peterman coming back and skipping her own team). I think this is another team that very likely stays together.
Team Walker (Laura Walker, Kate Cameron, Taylor McDonald, Nadine Scotland)
We learned this quad that Laura Walker’s best position is skip, and it’s possible that her and Kelsey Rocque are going to be on a collision course in Alberta for the foreseeable future. I think Kate Cameron is probably going to be moving on, whether that’s her decision or theirs. I think there will be options for Laura in Alberta and with Kate living so far, that situation becomes untenable with more homegrown options. The only other thing I’d think about here is if Nadine Scotland is happy to continue playing lead. Remember, she was a life-long skip before this and a damn good one, too. Now maybe Laura simply lets her move up to third and then there’s no longer a debate, but if she doesn’t, is there a situation that she likes better that she moves on to? It should be said Nadine is pretty much the nicest and most agreeable person on earth, so I’m sure she’s willing to do whatever she needs to in order to put whatever team she’s on in the best place to succeed. But is that best place with her at third?
As I said above, I could see Jocelyn Peterman potentially joining the squad, but I think they’ll also have options from out-of-province if Nadine stays and they’re adding at third, or lots of good in-province options for lead if Nadine moves up the lineup.
Team Scheidegger (Casey Scheidegger, Cary-Anne McTaggart, Jessie Haughian, Kristie Moore)
The Team McCarville of the West, Scheidegger has made a career out of playing a little less (though in fairness, that’s only in the last couple of years due to family situations), and I think they’ll continue to do that for another four years. They live a little off the beaten path in Lethbridge/Grande Prairie and I would imagine they’re all content to continue doing that for another 4 years. Casey, like Krista McCarville, is a teacher, and as a teacher myself, I know it’s one of the worst jobs to have while trying to curl competitively. It takes a squad to understand that, and I think it’s why we see them sticking together.
Team Einarson (Kerri Einarson, Val Sweeting, Shannon Birchard, Briane Meilleur)
It’s funny how the Trials become such a factor for teams. We’re talking about a back-to-back Scotties champion, a team that makes a tiebreaker at the Trials and yet…it seems like things could be changing for this team of 4 skips. That’s what a disappointing result at the Worlds and Trials will do, I suppose. They’ve obviously had lots of success and I think the chemistry is fairly evident on the ice but that said, I just can’t shake the feeling a change is coming here. And I think it’s at third.
Shannon Birchard has played back-end her entire career and while Val has shown an unbelievable aptitude for third since joining this team (and was tops among thirds at the Trials), I think Shannon moves up and Val moves on. Again, another team where I’d put the percentage chance of them staying together quite high (especially depending on what some other teams do), but I think if there is a change, Val moves on and complicates the Alberta picture. Does she want to skip? Does she play third for someone there too? She’ll have tons of options, I just think that could be the piece of this team that moves on.
Team McCarville (Krista McCarville, Kendra Lilly, Ashley Sippala, Sarah Potts)
Enough has been written (and said) about Team McCarville over the course of the Trials, but they simply continue to confound people by playing a slower schedule than virtually every competitive team regardless of gender and winning a bunch. Ho-hum, another semifinal finish for McCarville and it’s as I said on Twitter, I think a huge byproduct of this team’s success IS that they play less. It’s clear that’s what works best for them, and I don’t understand why people seem to think the very simple solution for them to win it all is, “well you have to play more!!!!!”
Anyway, they stay together unless Ashley (two kids under 5) or Sarah (twins) decide to take a step back. Luckily, Jen Gates is just chillin’ in the wings, waiting. Plus, we also can’t ignore the volume of great junior talent to come out of NO in the last two seasons. Between Kira Brunton, Lindsay Dubue, and the entire Canadian championship squad from this season, Krista will have front-end options if she needs them.
Team Fleury (Tracy Fleury, Selena Njegovan, Liz Fyfe, Kristin MacCuish)
In much the same way the Trials could change the fortunes of Team Einarson, it could do the same for Team Fleury, but in the opposite direction. Of course they’ve had an extremely good Grand Slam record (seriously, go look at it—their consistency is incredible), but the Scotties have been elusive (either they haven’t made it, they have and have performed below expectations, or Tracy hasn’t been able to play) and without a signature win or even final to their name, you’d think that if this Trials didn’t go well, it probably would’ve spelled the end of the team. But then they were magic for 95% of the week at the Trials and still had a shot to win the final despite not having their best game, not to mention entering the tournament as the World #1 and off of a Slam win and a Slam final. In short, it’s been a good year.
So I think they stay together but as I said up top, this team feels only in peril to me if Jennifer Jones retires and if Kaitlyn Lawes skips her own team. I think Kaitlyn would set her sights on a few players here and then Fleury will become the most sought-after skip in the game, where she’d have multiple suitors in Alberta and Ontario.
And as a bonus, the X-Factor here is Chelsea Carey. She’s played with a lot of different teammates over the past quadrennial and has had trouble nailing down a team, but is still one of the best last-rock throwers in the country and could be added to a bunch of potential lineups that would throw any of these predictions in disarray. Here’s my one, extremely weirdo off-the-wall thought: her parents moved to Vancouver this past year. Does she live there for a bit and form a gonzo team with Mary-Anne Arsenault, who also just moved to BC? Not an easy path to the Scotties (have to go through Corryn Brown, who will stay together imo), but that’s potentially an option if she doesn’t find her way to a more high-profile team in the meantime.
What do you think? I’m disabling comments on these newsletters, but you can @ me on Twitter at @cullenthecurler.