The Scotties start Friday night and continue through (gulp) next Sunday. We’re going to break it down tier-style.
But first, the chart o’ probabilities:
Top tier: #1 Einarson (Team Canada), #2 Homan/Fleury (Ontario), #6 Lawes (Wild Card 1)
The final will almost certainly include one of these teams, and maybe two of them! (Probably not three of them.) Team Einarson took over the top spot in our rankings from Team Tirinzoni in mid-December after winning the GSOC Masters, and Homan took over #2 at the same time.
Einarson is the clear top team in the world right now. They’re 36-13 but due to going deep in every event, they’ve played a world-best 26 games against top ten teams. I don’t think anything else needs to be said, but they’re also the three-time defending Scotties’ champs. So, yeah. Good luck everyone!
Team Homan is 38-9 this season with eight of those losses to teams in the top 11. They rolled through the Ontario Scotties when they didn’t even have to. (Though kudos to #51 Alli Flaxey for beating Homan in pool play and pulling off one of the biggest upsets on the women’s side this season.)
At #6, Team Lawes might deserve their own tier – they aren’t on the level of Einarson and Homan, but they are clearly better than everyone else in the field. It’s been an up and down season for Lawes, but they’ve split their four games against Einarson and Homan, so if you have to pick a tier, it’s this one.
If the champion doesn’t come from this group, it will be one of the top five surprises in Scotties history.
Serious Contenders: #9 Scheidegger (Wild Card 2), #11 Jones (Manitoba)
Team Scheidegger somehow holds onto to the ninth spot in our rankings despite not winning a single event this season. The team’s results have been weird, though. In many events, the individual results do indicate they’re one of the best teams here – they beat Lawes all three times they faced them, for instance. But they also lost all four games against #28 Team Skrlik, including in the Alberta Scotties final.
Team Jones has the advantage of having five capable players and you can bet Jennifer Jones will sit out against Team Yukon and probably take an early rest in another game or two if the scoreboard allows. I’m not sure if this is worth much, but the Scotties schedule is grueling and having a more rested team for the playoffs might help in a small way. Team Jones has played a whopping 80 games across 13 events to this point (though Jennifer didn’t play in all of these), the most in the field, and the most in the world for that matter.
Semi-Serious Mystery Teams: #12 Kelly (New Brunswick), #13 Black (Nova Scotia)
Teams Kelly and Black rank 12th and 13th, respectively in the ratings here, which is much better than they fare in CTRS due to a limited schedule against weaker competition. They aren’t really mystery teams as both skips have plenty of Scotties experience. Kelly even made the 1/2 game last year, and Black had the third-best performance among fourths.
Andrea Kelly added Jill Brothers as an import to form a New Brunswick superteam and has wrecked the Maritimes this season. Kelly has only played two games against top ten teams, and has gone just 3-7 against the top 25, but her rating is boosted by a 28-3 mark against teams outside the top 25. They won the New Brunswick Scotties without losing and actually without needing to throw a stone in the tenth end of any of their nine contests.
Team Black has run up a 34-7 record against even more suspect competition. (Amazingly, despite being the best two teams in their region by far, Kelly and Black have not played against each other this season.) However they had a nice run in the Stu Sells Halifax event in November where they beat Team Jones twice and lost in the final to Team Lawes. Since then, they’ve been staying close to home and pummeling local competition.
Longshot Contenders: #15 Grandy (British Columbia), #17 McCarville (Northern Ontario), #21 Silvernagle (Saskatchewan)
There are reasons to believe all three of these teams will be in the playoff hunt by the end of next week. Team Grandy got off to a hot start this season. They beat Team Jones and Team Tirinzoni a combined five times in six games across two event in the late summer. Since then, they’ve cooled off a bit and found their level. Still, given the track record against the best teams in the world there might be reason to trust them more than our mystery teams.
Team McCarville has had a bit of down year by their standards. They’ve only played 23 games total, and have won just once against top 25 competition. But they were the runners-up last season on home soil and history suggests they can put together a great week even without playing many competitive events.
Team Silvernagle was the only notable Canadian team, men’s or women’s, to pull off the successful “swoop” – not playing competitively this season until provincials, and then winning. This was also tried famously and unsuccessfully by Team Cotter and Team Jacobs on the men’s side. Silvernagle finished third in the 2019 Scotties and fifth in 2020, her lone appearances to date.
Longshot Playoff teams: #25 Galusha (NWT), #28 Skrlik (Alberta), #29 Ackland (Wild Card 3), #40 Birt/Christianson (PEI)
The bad news is none of these teams will win the title. The good news is that with a few breaks, any one of them could finish in the top three of their nine-team pool and make the playoff round. Galusha ended a forever-long playoff drought in last year’s event and is ranked #25 in the world which is 11 spots higher than going into last year’s Scotties. They also brought in Kevin Koe as coach which gives us an excuse to look back at Koe’s most memorable moment serving on Team NWT.
Team Skrlik pulled off the least-likely provincial victory in coming out of Alberta with an 11% chance. Skrilk is 6-3 vs the top the ten (wow!), 2-6 vs teams ranked 11-25 (eww!), and 20-8 vs teams outside the top 25 (meh).
Team Ackland (now skipped by Meghan Walter) used the brute-force method to acquire the third wild card spot. They appeared in ten events with enough success to get to seventh in the CTRS standings and snag the third wild card spot. Walter actually appeared in an 11th event – playing in the GSOC Masters in December on Team Scheidegger.
Finally, the GOAT of PEI curling, Suzanne Birt is back at the Scotties for a 14th time but things are a little different as long-time third Marie Christianson is now holding the broom. Team Birt is ranked 40th and played just four games against top 50 competition all season. Birt last made the Scotties’ playoffs in 2007 and has a remarkable run of finishing in the middle of the pack since then.