It’s playdown season and this page will serve as the home for mini-previews of the provincial playdowns with competitive fields.
Manitoba (Men, Feb 8-12)
Manitoba plays a wild 32-team double knockout bracket. I truly would love to code this up for a simulation, but probably won’t be able to before the event begins. Coolbet lists #6 Matt Dunstone as the favorite at -256, but Coolbet has been going overboard with the odds of favorites in provincials. Dunstone, of course, is the favorite and despite the fact that Manitoba has a very inclusive field and a format that could work against favorites – two losses and you’re done – there just isn’t much competition here.
But I do not believe Dunstone is as big of a favorite as Coolbet suggests. For one thing, Team Dunstone is atop the CTRS list and doesn’t need to win to be at the Brier. Not that they won’t be trying their hardest, but there’s just more desperation for #14 Reid Carruthers (+200). #35 Ryan Wiebe (+775) is the only other team given better than 20:1 odds here and that’s about right.
Alberta (Men, Feb 7-12)
A 12-team field will compete in triple knockout action in Edmonton.
They play for the Boston Pizza Cup in Alberta. It’s a cup! Of pizza! It just means more. This is a top-heavy field with #4 Bottcher and #8 Koe at the top, both of whom I believe get a Wild Card berth in the Brier if they fail to win here. There are also legitimate darkhorses in #21 Aaron Sluchinski and #25 Karsten Sturmay. The winner is going to be one of those four teams. Among the remaining eight teams, none have a 20% chance of even making the four-team playoff.
Bottcher checks in as the clear favorite, with a 52% chance to win according to the simulations.
Saskatchewan (Men, Feb 1-5)
A 12-team field will compete in triple-knockout action in Estevan.
When Team Dunstone broke up, it was widely assumed that Colton Flasch would assume the role of Saskatchewan’s top team. And that assumption has been correct.
Well, sort of. Team Flasch has appeared in all four slams this season and is the unquestioned top dog in the province. But the team has lost 15 of 16 games against top ten competition. That’s actually a worse win rate than all of the other teams in Saskatchewan combined, who are a collective 1-8.
So Flasch is the favorite in this event, but at a mere 39% it makes more sense to take to the field. The team with the second-best chance in our simulations is led by Kelly Knapp. Team Knapp is ranked 22nd despite not having played anything close to the competition Team Flasch has. Where Flasch has played 29 games against teams in the top 25, Knapp’s highest-rated opponent has been #35 Steve Laycock (who happens to be the third-best team in this event) and Knapp lost that game.
As a result of curling exclusively in his home province this season, Knapp’s not a household name nationally. But his team did beat Flasch, the eventual champ, in last season’s Tankard sending Flasch to a precarious C-event win-or-go-home game.
Northern Ontario (Jan 25-29)
No probabilities here because the women’s event is the McCarville Invitational. The men’s event is a little more interesting with Tanner Horgan and Brad Jacobs both in a field playing a triple knockout format. We’ve gone on record previously with some thoughts about Jacobs’ chances and are looking forward to seeing how this plays out.
Saskatchewan (Women, Jan 25-29)
A 12-team field will compete in triple-knockout action in Estevan.
Once again, Sask provides us with one of the most entertaining events on the playdown calendar. Last year, Penny Barker cashed in on a 19% chance to win and represented the province at the Scotties. This year, she’s the favorite, but only at 28%. Nancy Martin is the main challenger at 25%, and has split four games against Barker this season. Amber Holland and Robyn Silvernagle are other possibilities. Silvernagle hasn’t really played four-person curling this season, though.
Manitoba (Women, Jan 25-29)
A 12-team field will compute in multi-stage pool play with a three-team playoff.
It’s “the grandmommy of them all” or at least that’s what it should be called as the only province with three teams in the Doubletakeout top 15 holds its playdowns this week. World #1 Team Einarson is the reigning Scotties champs and won’t be competing. So that leaves it to Team Lawes/Fleury and Team Jones/Zacharias to battle it out in suburban Winnipeg. Lawes is about 50/50 to win with Jones given a 26% chance. Four more teams could pull off a surprise here: Ackland, Peterson, Carey and Watling.
Ontario (Jan 24-29)
The men and women play identical formats with a 12-team field competing in multi-stage pool play and a three-team playoff.
There’s already one day in the books in this event as I write this, but let’s pretend like there’s not. We’ll get women out of the way first as we promised to mention only events with competitive fields and we are pushing the limits of that qualification here with Team Homan given a nice 69% chance of winning while no other team has more than an 8% chance. But Homan is already qualified for the Scotties as a Wild Card at worst, so this is more of a tune-up event for them and thus maybe there’s a chance they get upset in the playoffs by the likes of Hollie Duncan, Isabelle Ladouceur, or Danielle Inglis, the only teams in the field that have more than one win against top 25 competition this season.
The men’s side should have some suspense as Howard and Epping are near co-favorites in this one. Sam Mooibroek has established his team as the best young squad in Ontario and has a great shot of surviving into the playoffs. Mooibroek was a mere 89th in our rankings heading into the tankard last year, but a run to the playoffs launched his team to a bunch of success this season. There’s also Mike McEwen’s re-tooled team as a spoiler possibility.
Alberta (Women, Jan 18-22)
The Alberta Scotties take center stage this week where eight women’s teams will play a full round-robin and conclude with a three-team playoff at the Wetaskiwin Civic Centre.
Three teams having a realistic shot at the title: #9 Casey Scheidegger, #23 Kelsey Rocque, and #26 Jessie Hunkin. Also in the field are #38 Kayla Skrlik and #43 Selena Sturmay but the format here is a full round-robin among the eight team field so those teams will have to beat at least one of the three frontrunners to make the three-team playoff.
Scheidegger is the clear favorite at around 40%, which is an interesting choice given that her team has gone winless in the last two slams. However, one of those was without Casey Scheidegger herself and not included in the team’s rating. A convincing performance this week would set her up to be a sneaky pick to crash the playoffs at the Scotties.
British Columbia (Jan 11-15)
Both the men and women play a triple-knockout format at the Chilliwack Curling Club.
Brent Pierce (#29) and Jacques Gauthier (#32) are more or less co-favorites in the men’s event with each team having about a 1-in-3 chance of winning. These teams have a similar rating but have got there in much different ways. Pierce is 0-5 vs. the top 25 while Gauthier is 8-7. However, Pierce has gone 21-3 to teams outside the top 25 while Gauthier has gone an abysmal 17-14 against the same group. Gauthier might be built better to succeed in the Brier, but getting there won’t be easy.
There’s also a 1-in-3 chance for others and there’s some sneaky depth in this field. The kind of depth that wouldn’t really matter in a province with stronger teams at the top, but with the top teams in BC having their flaws, you certainly can’t rule out the five teams ranked in the 50-110 range, especially when one of them is skipped by Jim Cotter (#71).
While the men’s event is a 12-team field, the women’s event has just eight teams. It should come down to Clancy Grandy (#15) or Corryn Brown (#36). A year or two ago it seemed as if Brown was on the cusp of owning BC curling for the next few years, but along came the Ontario-import Grandy to take over Kayla McMillan’s team and the results this season have been good enough to make Team Grandy the favorite here.
Grandy won the Tier 2 GSOC Challenge event which gave her team a free bid to a future Grand Slam event. Cool! It happens to be this week’s Canadian Open. I believe BC is the only province to schedule its playdowns opposite a slam and so Grandy has to pass in order to play in provincials. Fortunately, Team Grandy was able to compete in the WFG Masters in December by qualifying for that slam on world ranking status.
Grandy and Brown account for a 77% chance of winning and they’re the only two touring teams in this event. The next-most likely winner is the team skipped by veteran Diane Gushulak (#66), who plays lead for a team where Brette Richards plays fourth.