Canadian trials preview

The Canadian Olympic trials start on Saturday in Saskatoon, punctuating four years of the best Canadian curlers hurting the feelings of friends and reorganizing teams in order to position themselves for a run at a trip to Beijing in February. This is one of the best events on the calendar. Considering the strength of the respective fields, perhaps better than the Olympics, themselves.

I’ve crunched the probabilities and will share those for the men first:

Rk    Rtg   Team       Playoff Title
 2   11.56  Gushue      71.8    37.1   
 3   11.18  Jacobs      54.8    21.0   
 6   10.94  Koe         42.9    13.1   
 7   10.89  Bottcher    40.5    11.7   
 8   10.76  Dunstone    34.4     8.8   
11   10.54  McEwen      24.8     5.0   
19   10.10  Epping      11.1     1.3   
20   10.10  Gunnlaugson 11.0     1.3   
25   10.00  Horgan       8.8     0.9

Let’s not waste any time: Brad Gushue has the best team in Canada. Since the last Olympics, Gushue has lost a total of four times to teams outside the top 25. The last time he lost to a team outside the top ten on home soil was November 2019. You have to get up pretty early in the morning to beat Brad Gushue, and you have to be really good.

Of course, the teams at the trials are really good. All of them reside inside the top 25 and four of Gushue’s opponents are in the top eight. And also, Gushue had the highest ranked team in Canada before the trials four years ago and fell to Mike McEwen in the semis, so being the best team isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Speaking of favorites, if Team Gushue didn’t exist, I’d be writing similar words about Brad Jacobs. There’s a sizable gap between Gushue and Jacobs in my ratings, but there’s also a significant gap between Jacobs and the next tier of teams.

It feels like this event is going to be won by a Brad, but the simulations give them just a 58% combined chance. The single-elimination playoff format really serves to limit the chances of the favorites. Although it’s probably a surprise that Jacobs has barely a 50/50 shot of even making the playoffs.

And that’s because this ain’t the Brier. There’s a depth to this field that will challenge the top teams in every draw. The next tier of teams – Koe, Bottcher, Dunstone, and McEwen – are all capable of looking like the best team in Canada over any given week, too. And while any of those teams winning would be a surprise of some sort, it’s not like it would be an upset on the scale of Shuster winning gold in the 2018 Olympics.

Now let’s take a look at the women:

Rk   Rtg    Team      Playoff  Title  
 2   11.18  Fleury      65.3    30.4   
 3   11.02  Homan       57.7    23.5   
 4   11.01  Einarson    57.4    23.2   
10   10.57  Jones       35.6     9.5   
17   10.18  Walker      19.4     3.4   
19   10.14  McCarville  18.0     3.0   
20   10.13  Scheidegger 17.8     2.9   
21   10.11  Rocque      17.1     2.7   
26    9.92  Harrison    11.7     1.5

Team Fleury has been the undisputed best team in the country this season. They’ve gone 30-5 across five events including an impressive 9-3 against the top ten. Meanwhile, the other two serious contenders, Homan and Einarson, have both played poorly. Well, poorly for them anyway. Homan is a pedestrian 6-8 against the top 25 and Einarson is an unthinkable 0-9 against the top ten.

But the ratings take a long view, and still have Homan and Einarson with very significant chances to win. In fact, combined they’re easily more likely to win than Fleury’s team alone. Elite teams don’t forget how to play great curling and both of those teams should still be factors this week.

One interesting note about Fleury – in her 35 games this season, she’s started with hammer 28 times. The ratings don’t correct for hammer and it seems unlikely that Fleury will win hammer 80% of the time against this field. So her rating may be a touch inflated for the purpose of this event. Anyway, it’s something to watch.

There’s not a “next tier” on the women’s side the way there is for the men. Jennifer Jones made a Slam final this season and so you can’t count her out, but she’s the extent of the next tier. Everyone else is a long-shot, although one might hold out hope that teams Scheidegger and McCarville are underrated in my system. McCarville was a fringe top-ten team pre-pandemic and Team Scheidegger was ranked slightly higher than it is now before Casey Scheidegger stepped away in late 2019 due to her pregnancy.

Betting stuff: In the GSOC Boost National, we hit on Team Gushue at +565 to get us to the positive side of the betting ledger after two events at +2.55M (where M is made-up units of money). Sadly, the odds at coolbet.com do not provide any value on any team to win this week based on the probabilities. But there is some small value on teams Scheidegger (+495) and Rocque (+535) to make the playoffs, so put us down for 0.5M on each of the underdogs to make a run.

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