GSOC National preview

North Bay, Ontario is the site for the first slam of the season. It’s where 32 of the best curling teams that care to compete in the first year of an Olympic cycle will gather to bring some early-season order to the curling world. That also means it’s prediction time around here.

The first few weeks of the season have been marked by, well, a lot of curling. We’re kind of back to normal with all sorts of events featuring quality teams taking place in locations like Tallinn, Estonia and Vernon, BC.

One might expect a bit more parity with many players either retiring or “retiring” (Eve Muirhead will play again someday, right?) after the grind of the last Olympic cycle. And the probabilities on the women’s side reflect that as no team has more than a 20% chance of winning.

Rk  Rating  Team       Pool  Playoff Title
 1  11.25   Tirinzoni   A     72.8   20.2  
 2  11.18   Einarson    B     68.1   17.1  
 3  11.11   Hasselborg  A     69.4   16.0  
 5  10.79   Fujisawa    C     53.2    7.7  
 6  10.73   Homan       B     57.4    7.6  
 7  10.62   Kim         C     49.5    5.6  
 9  10.58   Lawes       D     49.1    5.2  
10  10.50   Gim         D     47.5    4.4  
12  10.44   Peterson    D     46.4    3.9  
14  10.27   McCarville  B     47.3    2.9  
13  10.28   Jones       C     42.4    2.7  
21  10.10   Wranå       B     43.5    1.9  
25  10.00   Keiser      A     44.4    1.6  
26   9.98   Duncan      C     35.7    1.3  
31   9.84   Jentsch     A     40.3    1.1  
34   9.79   Carey       D     33.1    0.8

There’s still a clear hierarchy with slightly-new-look Tirinzoni along with the returning foursomes led by Einarson and Hasselborg leading the way. Among those three, only Tirinzoni has really been active this season, going 21-4 in four events against a fairly soft schedule, as they try to work in their new front end of Carole Howald and Briar Hürlimann.

Other interesting storylines for this event relate to the new-ish teams of Rachel Homan, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jennifer Jones. They’ve all gotten off to solid starts but the computer here is skeptical they have what it takes to reach Einarson-level quality.

I’m particularly interested in Team Jones, who has played 28 games across five events and seems willing to play just about every week. It’s a five-person team and JJ herself can swoop in and play the big events while she lets the kids of former Team Zacharias play to their hearts’ content.

This happened last week when Team Zacharias went 2-3 at the Stu Sells event in Toronto, artificially damaging Team Jones’ rating heading into this event. You have been advised.

The format here is “pool” play where the pools are irrelevant except for scheduling purposes. Curiously, Tirinzoni and Hasselborg ended up in the same pool, which means that teams Lawes, Gim, Peterson, and Carey have to play them both. But it doesn’t appear to the skew the odds any, perhaps because those four also get to play Daniela Jentsch and slam rookie Raphaela Keiser.

The men’s side is more challenging to talk about because the ratings have struggled with all of the new teams so far. Actually, the ratings bring great shame to doubletakeout.com. But the good news is this event should do a lot to clarify the strength of Bottcher, Koe and Dunstone on the motherboard. I fully expect all three teams to end up in my top six by the time we get to the Brier. But for now, the computer basically thinks you could beat them.

These probabilities are for entertainment purposes…and they are entertaining.

Rk  Rating  Team     Pool Playoff Title
 1  11.61   Gushue     A   82.5   27.8  
 2  11.52   Mouat      C   67.5   19.9  
 3  11.19   Edin       B   56.9   11.0  
 5  10.89   Retornaz   A   67.1    8.3  
 4  11.03   Schwaller  B   53.0    8.1  
 6  10.72   Whyte      C   48.2    4.6  
 9  10.68   Carruthers C   47.4    4.2  
10  10.52   Howard     D   48.6    3.2  
11  10.46   Flasch     D   47.6    2.9  
14  10.29   Hösli      A   54.3    2.4  
12  10.41   Dropkin    B   40.0    2.2  
17  10.21   Dunstone   B   35.6    1.4  
21  10.13   Bottcher   D   41.1    1.3  
20  10.15   Brunner    C   36.0    1.2  
24  10.06   Koe        D   39.7    1.1  
53   9.55   McEwen     A   34.4    0.3

The top three of Gushue, Mouat, and Edin is surely accurate, although one can quibble with the order. I’ll predict an end-of-season finish of Mouat/Edin/Gushue myself. The loss of Brett Gallant from Team Gushue is not trivial.

Team Schwaller and to a lesser extent, Retornaz, are also going to be legit this season, eventually overtaken by 2 or 3 of the new Canadian teams in the rankings, but still top ten quality. The men’s game is catching up to the women’s game with respect to the depth and quality of non-Canadian teams.

There are 8 Canadian teams in the men’s field compared to 7 on the women’s side. Though it’s worth noting the best team not invited to the field on the men’s side is #8 Steffen Walstad of Norway. So the top of men’s curling is practically as international as the top of women’s curling.

The Boost National starts Tuesday morning and runs through Sunday. Coverage begins on SportsNet and its associated platforms on Thursday.

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