Men’s worlds preview


The men’s worlds starts on Saturday in Vegas, and like the women, the field isn’t what it could be. Most notably, top-ranked Team Mouat won’t be in Vegas despite the fact that they wanted to be the Scottish representative.

Seventh-ranked Team De Cruz is not here on account of losing to Team Schwaller in the Swiss Championships which were held right after the Olympics. Tenth-ranked Team Shuster will not be representing the U.S., with #17 Team Dropkin taking their place. Finally, #23 Team Glukhov is out, because…Russia, and was replaced by #54 Team Kiiskinen of Finland.

The result is Canada and Sweden are the clear favorites here. Per the simulations, the Canadians have a rather implausible 99% chance of making the playoff round, but that gives you an indication of how weak the rest of the field is.

I say “rather implausible” because as we saw with women’s worlds, there’s always the possibility of covid playing a role in things and the simulations do not go so far as to model virus transmission. Though Mark Nichols got covid at the Brier and somehow none of his teammates did, so we might expect Canada to be in good shape in this regard.

The only alternative to simply waiting around for the seemingly inevitable championship game between Gushue and Edin next Sunday is tracking the Italian Redemption Tour. We made a big deal about Italy’s potential at the Olympics, and the weakened field means they have the third-best chance to win it all according to the simulations. It’s perhaps better to think of them as part of the group capable of medalling that also includes Switzerland, the U.S., Scotland, and Norway.

But those other nations are regulars in the fight for international curling honors. Italy has placed in the top six in worlds just twice, most recently in 1982, and has never medaled so winning bronze would be a monumental achievement. Between 1991 and 2014, they only even appeared at the worlds three times. Just making the playoffs would be progress even though it would come against a less robust field than normal for this event.

Italy was unremarkable in Beijing, going 3-6 in round robin play, though that included wins against Switzerland and the United States. Since then they’ve played one event, the Aberdeen International Curling Championship, where they won their first six games before losing to Sixten Totzek in the finals. The field was weak, and Totzek will be representing Germany at worlds, so the results weren’t super encouraging.

But the bigger picture gives one more confidence. In games against the bottom six teams in this field, Team Retornaz went 15-1 this season. So the loss to Totzek was out of character and Italy should be capable of getting into the playoffs. Italy opens with Scotland on Saturday. It will be a good indication of whether Retornaz has intentions of breaking through on the international stage.

Rk  Rating  Team          Playoff  Title
 2  11.92   Gushue    CAN   99.2   46.8  
 4  11.29   Edin      SWE   93.6   21.5  
12  10.71   Retornaz  ITA   74.9    8.9  
13  10.61   Schwaller SUI   69.6    7.2  
15  10.56   Walstad   NOR   67.3    6.6  
18  10.37   Dropkin   USA   56.0    4.1  
20  10.23   Paterson  SCO   47.6    2.9  
31   9.75   Klima     CZE   21.9    0.6  
38   9.66   Totzek    GER   18.2    0.4  
39   9.65   Kim       KOR   17.7    0.4  
44   9.56   Krause    DEN   14.4    0.3  
54   9.40   Kiiskinen FIN    9.9    0.2  
55   9.40   Gösgens   NED    9.7    0.1

Women’s worlds review: The back-to-back nature of men’s and women’s worlds means there’s not time to do a review of the women’s worlds justice at the moment. But Team Tirinzoni staked a clear claim to being the best team in the world with their unbeaten run through the event, capping what has to be the best season a team could have without winning an Olympic medal.

We’ll need to do a full analysis of the no-tick rule, but it seemed to go well. Canada and Sweden put up a combined 18 points in a round-robin game, one of the highest-scoring games either team has played. So there’s at least some evidence the rule encouraged getting more rocks in play, even when a game got lopsided.

Odds oddities: Korea did us proud last week by making the finals although it never really felt like they had a chance in their game against Switzerland despite the score being close late. As is typical for a men’s international event, the betting market favors Sweden much more heavily than the simulations.

It does not help that the only event for Team Edin since the Olympics was the Swedish Championships, where not only did they fail to win, they lost three of their five games against a field that had no other teams in the top 100. That disastrous, and we might surmise, unmotivated and/or fatigued performance, possibly on substandard ice, wrecked Team Edin’s rating real good.

Taking the current odds at Coolbet at face value, the most value is in Italy to win. The +1200 odds require a break-even point of 7.7% and the sims say they’re 8.9%. It’s tough to envision any team in the field being able to beat Canada and Sweden in the playoffs, though.