This is not really a preview of the Champions Cup. It’s actually already started as I post this. If you want the Monte Carlo probabilities for the event they are here. The most interesting thing in this event full of lame-duck teams is that #77 Ryan Jacques is in the 12-team field on the men’s side. I’m not sure if there has been a lower rated team in a slam. (Jacques is currently #48 in the official world team rankings.) Anyway, if you have nominations, drop them in the comments.
Jacques got here by winning the Vesta Energy Curling Classic in Red Deer in November. Excluding that event, Team Jacques went 17-19 against a schedule that included just one game against a team in the top 25 and 11 losses to teams outside the top 100. I mean, all of their players are in college and so we’ll cut them some slack. But the point is they are an outsider in this event. And also it’s great there’s a path for a team like that to play in an event like this!
The Grand Slam of Curling is under no obligation to invite a team like Jacques to their events. They are not going to drive ratings. (Although, I’d tune in to see their opener against Team Koe today. Coolbet lists Koe as a -5000 favorite and there certainly haven’t been many bigger favorites in a slam game than that. However, my ratings say Jacques has about a 10% chance of winning, so there’s value in Jacques at +1150.)
In fact, it’s a little weird that the Vesta Energy Curling Classic is an event that feeds into the Champions Cup. The Oakville Labour Day Classic, won by Brad Jacobs, had a better strength of field, but Jacobs needed a “sponsor’s exemption” to qualify.
Matt Dunstone has been on a crusade regarding the lack of younger teams that stay in the sport. The Best of the West event a couple weeks ago was an effort to give younger teams a higher profile event to play in. More under-25 events would be useful to provide a path for younger teams to play in events without getting their brains beat in by Brendan Bottcher and/or Kevin Koe.
But if there’s not a viable path to competing in the biggest events in the sport then I’m not sure the team development matters that much. And being one of the best 16 or so teams in the world is just not going to be a viable goal for most teams. But it’s a better sport if getting on a heater in the Vesta Energy Classic will get you rewarded with at least a few mentions on Sportsnet later in the year. If there’s a path for the 70th best team to break through every once in a while, then maybe that’s enough motivation for more teams to stick around and compete.