Now Available! EBook from CWM

Now Available! EBook from CWM
Order Now from Amazon

You can also get an epub copy


Monday, December 30, 2013

(A Belated) Christmas Wrap of the Roar

I was there.  And I'm still surprised.  Not surprised that Jacobs won, I watched them at the Brier and you knew they had the talent and the fortitude.  Mind you, so did everyone else in this mens field.  I was surprised at how things transpired.  Martin winning two games he had no business winning, then losing to Jacobs and Morris in games they likely should have won.  Koe starting out 0-5 then taking away all play-off hopes from Howard and McEwen.  Calmly drawing the button against Howard same as he did in the 2010 Brier final.  Koe is now 4-13 against Howard since the 2010/11 Season and 7-21 overall.

Jennifer Jones winning was no real surprise.  You could certainly say the two teams that looked strongest all week came through and will likely be great reps in Sochi.  Who ever gets out of Northern Ontario this year better savour their Purple Hearts, they won't be available for many years to come.

I'm still working on a book and paper so I have limited time to commit (hence why I'm also late posting this), but a few thoughts:

1. I have no problem with Jacobs trying the double in the 9th end of the finals.  As I stated in a recent Curlingzone post:

Assume the shot for 1 is made 100% (it isn't quite that high).

Taking 1, Jacobs wins 89% of the time.

Attempting a double, a few things might happen.

Makes it for 2 - 99%
Morris Steals 1 - 78%
There's a slight chance he still gets one, if either a red spins to go between the 2 yellows or removes the yellow at the back of rings. Let's assume that's 0%.
He flashes. Let's assume that's 0%

Jacobs needs to make it about 50% of the time for it to make sense. Based on the margin for error for hitting a half rock, I'd say about every skip there could have called that shot and it would be correct.


It was initially my guess that Morris wanted to him to try the double, as it created a chance to steal. Then he said on air "I didn't think he'd try it". 

I actually believe you want him to try it but the rock could have been put further away to be more difficult. If Jacobs takes 1, you're still losing 89% of the time (and that's against the average team, possibly even worse against Jacobs). You want to create some type of scenario where you might possibly steal, even if it creates a risk at losing now. The better option may have been to try a partial guard/come around on the yellow in the top twelve.

2. How did Howard give up 4 in the 8th end, when 3 up against Martin?  
Laing missed a peel and Glenn missed both his shots.  So how could they have avoided four (a 40% Win Expectancy) and simply held Martin to 3 (a 78% WE)?  

- One suggestion early in the end was Linda and Russ mentioning NOT to put two rocks in the rings with lead rocks.  Many teams will put first shot top four foot and  throw the second through rather than come in and give more "shrapnel" as Russ called it for the other team to use.  This did hurt them as the peel into the pile pushed their rock to the back twelve which was then frozen to by Kennedy.  I agree, if you're 3 up (of even 2 up) more than 1 rock in the four foot can hurt you more often than it helps.  I don't have data to support this but I've always felt this way.  Anyone remember Ferbey vs Dacey final end of the 2004 Brier?

- Glenn's last shot.  Surprising that they discussed and didn't realize that throwing more weight would clear out the rocks.  Glenn was so focused on putting his shooter into a certain spot with a certain roll that they failed to notice that lighter weight and a miss by 2 inches would leave a shot for four.  If Glenn could throw it over again I suspect he throws more weight and makes sure of no worse than 3.  After he played the shot the camera caught him putting his head in his hand and whispering "Oh, Christ".  At that point, even divine intervention wasn't going to help them avoid a catastrophe, only a deuce in 10 could.
- Glenn had a difficult shot for 2 in 10 but it still appeared to be the correct call. remember he needs to make it only 1 in 5 tries to be the same as going to the extra end.
- TSN turning point - perhaps not even the 9th end but the last shot in the 8th when Glenn had a very makeable shot for 2 that would have put them up 4, and he wrecked on the front guard for only 1.
-  Glenn later said it was the "worst loss of his life".  It's not the biggest loss in the biggest moment as a skip (I think the loss to Menard in 2006 finals was most shocking perhaps), but with it being the Trials and the way it happened, likely one that will linger for a long time.  In curling, these types of things just aren't suppose to happen, yet every player, even the best in the world, has a memory of a game like this.  

3. Matt Dunstone and his Canadian Champion junior team was introduced to the crowd on Saturday during the 5th end break of the Semi-final.  They showed some great highlights on the jumbo-tron, but missed the most important one, this Manitoba curling commercial from the mid-80s starring his dad Dean Dunstone.  Matt naturally isn't visible in the video, but you can see the glint in Dean's eye.  You can also see that most hairdressers in the 80s had a cocaine addiction.

4. Mens Semi-final.  6th End.  It seemed like Kevin hit the in-between shot exactly.  Leaving his shooter in a terrible spot was the big mistake.  The nose on his blank attempt in 9 was interesting because of John's thoughts on where to put the rock.  No one was perhaps better suited to decide where Kevin would be most likely to bonk than his previous third.  Still a rare event and not expected.  Unfortunate result for Martin who had played as well or better than any player all week but was off on a couple of shots in this game.

Until next time...

Saturday, December 7, 2013

ATH, 12/07/13: 2013 Roar of the Rings - Mens Semi-Final Media Scrum

Interviews begin with skip Kevin Martin, second Marc Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert.  Then follows fourth Jim Cotter and skip John Morris.

Check out this episode!

Friday, December 6, 2013

ATH, 12/06/13: 2013 Roar of the Rings - Womens Semi-Finals Media Scrum

Around The House will have all the recorded interviews in the media scrum following the Play-off games of the 2013 Roar of the Rings, Canadian Olympic Curling Trials.  Rachel Homan is first, followed by Sherry Middaugh.

Check out this episode!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Quick one before I head to the Patch...

It feels late, I'm exhausted, and I need to get to the Patch early for an American Brew so that I can leave early and get to bed to be rested for tomorrow morning and the oddly planned final draw of the Trials at 8:30 AM.  But I promised some quick analysis of the Mens and here it is:

The view for Brad Jacobs until Sunday, from the top

Epping, Howard, Stoughton and Koe are all out.  They may all be in the patch tonight, getting prepared for the morning draw.  Only Koe needs to "take it easy" as his game against Mike McEwen has ramifications for possible play-offs.  In 2009 I'm certain the final draw was Thursday night which made that night in the Patch one of the best ever.  All but three mens teams were done and having a grand ole time that night.  Now, half the field would rather enjoy the evenning without having to rise and shine to play a game they would prefer to skip (I mean "skip", not skip).

IF Martin wins against Morris, he gets hammer in the semi-final.

IF Morris loses that same game against his old skip, he will have to see what Mike McEwen does in his game against Kevin Koe.  

IF McEwen wins, he's in a tie-breaker IF Morris loses.

IF Morris wins, McEwen is out and Morris has hammer in a re-match against Martin.

IF Epping wins against Brad Jacobs, Epping will increase his stats in wins and losses, and Brad will not be the least bit disappointed.

And in the battle of the two oldest skips, in a game we all expected would matter, IF Jeff or Glenn win they get absolutely nothing.  It seems so strange that the TV game will NOT be the two best skips in the last 7 years (and pretty darn high on the list of greatest curlers even before that) not named Kevin Martin.

Never did come up with a caption for this one...

Some Expected Odds (and, like in the Womens analysis, I'm going to assume every team here is equal):

Odds that Jacobs goes to Sochi (58%).  They've looked strong all week and will be difficult to beat, especially with hammer (although they didn't need it last winter at the Brier or Worlds, until the final game).

Odds that Martin gets to finals = 50% and wins = 20%

Odds that Morris gets to final = 44% and wins = 17.6%

Odds that McEwen gets to final = 6% and wins = 2.4%

Oh, and to follow up on Womens odds:

Jones = 60% to win

Homan = 24%

Middaugh = 9.6%

Carey = 6.4%

Good luck to all and please, for those who need it, get some rest.  You have a big game tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Going home again

There are many sayings about home and that once you leave you can't go again, or things change, or it's where the heart is, or something like that.  My home has been Alberta for 13 years and I was actually born in Montreal but my formative years were spent in the great city of Winnipeg, the "Paris of Canada" as Ron Burgundy put it earlier this week. 

Ron Burgundy and impecable posture

It's been a great week so far and I will try to make it less about me and more about the Curling, but please indulge me for a moment and trust me, we'll get there...

Day 1 included 13 hours of visiting old friends, their growing kids, and consuming several good beers, fine wines and a scotchy scotch for a nightcap (or two).  It also included a brief glimpse at the childhood basement of a curling friend, where much of my teen years were spent frolicing and listening to the smooth sounds of Collective Soul, Beastie Boys, Pink Floyd and Paula Abdul (yes, Ken's tastes were "straight up" eclectic).

How did we fit 128 people into that room?

On Day 1 of the Roar/Trials I ran into several people I had not seen in many years.  It amazed me how good they all looked and how, despite age and changes, Winnipeg seems to stay the same.  Maybe when the city's own band The Watchmen wrote Any Day Now it was as much about how the feeling of being back in Manitoba's capital takes you to yesterday and makes it feel familiar, as do the old friends and good company, even if everyone is 30 pounds heavier, battling hair loss and raising 2.3 kids.  Many great conversations about the Trials, kids, and who got cancer.

On Day 2 the nostalgia came back harder still when I met Rick Loewen, of The 2 Sports Guys.

These guys ran a local cable access show while I was in University and they were brilliant.  I even went to watch local tapings (usually along with 7 or 8 other rabid fans).  I immediately texted a friend (from Winnipeg) who asked me to remind Rick he still owes him an ugly lamp as a trivia prize.  Frightened of another potential 2 Sports Guy Nerd stalker, Rick made a quick getaway.

Winnipeg is also home to many of the curlers here this week.  17 of the 64 starting players are Manitobans of one flavour or another, and that doesn't include Jon Mead who was born in Saskatchewan but grew up in Winnipeg.  Six of the 8 mens teams has at least one Manitoban.  Dave Nedohin is a returnee who had all of his notable success in Alberta playing for the rival of his now skip, Kevin Martin.  Martin is off to a miraculous 5-0 start that could easily be 3-2.  Two wins on Tuesday appeared out of nowhere when Kevin Koe, in command at 4-2 with hammer playing 8, coughed up a steal of two, was forced to a single and then surrendered a deuce in 10 to lose.  His average Win Expectancy was 94.5% starting the 8th end.  Koe has fallen to 0-5 and they seem to be the snakebit team of the week.  Very close games, many that could have gone either way, but they landed on the wrong end of the scoreboard each time.

Martin had another miracle comback, this time taking 4 in the 9th end against Howard when they were 3 points down.  I'm still so struck by it I can't really remember how it all developed.  I hope to review the end as soon as I get my hands on a "PVR recording" (which still feels  stranger to me than saying that than Beta VHS).  Howard still had a chance, down one with hammer, but attempted a double raise for two.  Some thought he should have tried an angle tap for one but the raise seemed very make-able and he may still get one very often even if he doesn't score two.  Likely the right call.  Howard's odds to win starting the 9th end, 95.8%.  Martins odds of pulling of Both miraculous wins was roughly .23 % or less than 1/4 percent.  Ouch.

The draw to the button continues to be an exciting event that they should put on TV.  At 0-2, Stoughton came out against Epping and following their first practice, the first 3 players covered the pin.  Lead Mark Nichols then put it on the button, and hi-fives all around.  Jennifer Jones felt some nerves on her first draw for the hammer (which have clearly subsided as she sits 5-1).  On Sunday afternoon in front of a large Burgandy charged crowd she was called for a hogline violation.  This could have had major implications as tie breakers at the end of the week rank teams based on head to head wins first and then total hammer draws for the week.  I learned that a hog counts the same as missing the house but teams only use 6 of their 7 draws towards the ranking, so they can toss that one out.  Phew.  

Other early nerves seen from nearly everyone.  Homan had a hit for three against Val Sweeting during the 2nd end in the first draw, and gave up a steal of one.  That game launched the Sweeting team to a hot 3-0 start, but they have now regressed to 3-3 and need a win tomorrow to ensure a play-off or tie-breaker.

Now that we are nearing the play-offs, let's see how the weekend might shape up for the Women, we'll do the Men's tomorrow...

On the Womens side, Jones has clinched #1 and a bye into the finals with her steal in the 10th end against Homan, who drops to 3-3.  Jones will have a chance to move Nedohin to 3-4 tomorrow and possibly keep her out of the weekend, but maybe not.

Carey is the only team with 2 losses.  If they beat Middaugh, Nedohin defeats Jones, Lawton loses to Homan and Sweeting loses to Sonnenberg, then we have Carey in second place and a 5 way play-off for teams at 3-4 for the final spot.  Only Sonnenberg would be out of play at the end of the Round Robin (my fingers are crossed) 

Odds are as follows (I'm going to assume all teams ar 50/50 chance to win.  I clearly understand this isn't the case, but it's late, I'm tired and it's close enough):

Odds of 5 way play-off = 6 1/4 % (and Lawton qualifies and 7 of 8 teams make the play-offs, if you consider tie breaker games as play-offs - and I do)

Odds of 4 way play-off is the same 6 1/4%

Odds of 3 way play-off = 31 1/4 %

Odds of 2 way play-off is the same 31 1/4 %

Odds of no tie breakers = 25%

If a 3-3 team wins they are assured of a chance, and that's all anyone can hope for in this grueling event.

So you can come home again, you just can't buy Canadian beer when you do...because the CANADIAN Olympic Curling Trials only offers American brands:

Coors, Coors Light and MGD?  Where's my Old Style Pilsner?

ATH 12/03: Canada Olympic Trials Draw 7

Jordan Bauldic, Kevin Palmer and guest Kyle Jahns, freelance writer for the CCA, record their first ATH of the season LIVE from the MTS Centre in Winnipeg right before Draw 7 of the Roar of the Rings, Canada's Olympic Curling Trials.

Check out this episode!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Preview to the Roar: Part II

And now, on to the Women's portion of our 2013 The Trials Preview.  You've likely already seen it, but if not, check out Part I.

2014 will see a new representative for Canada as Calgary's Cheryl Bernard was ousted in The Pre-Trials (aka Road to the Roar).  A tough loss for Bernard over Val Sweeting, also from Alberta, after stealing two in the 8th end to go up 7-5, a deuce in 9 and steal in 10 sent them home.  Three of the 8 teams are from the Wild Rose province, indicating its depth in Women's curling.  7 of the top 20 teams on the Tour's Order of Merit are from Alberta, but only heather Nedohin is in the top 12 (5th).

Because of the smaller sample size, I've added a new statistic.  Using Bill James Pythagorean Theorem, I've calculated the Predicted Winning Percentages against the field.  For curling, the exponent of this formula is 2.72 and you use the ratio of PF/PA because there is no set amount of games played in a season for all teams.  For the Men the Pythagorean was not a surprise, Howard (67.4%), Martin (57.5%) and McEwen (54.3%) were the only teams with an expected winning percentage over .500.  Interesting that Stoughton and Epping have lower expected wins based on this formula.  Stoughton drops from 3.4 to 2.98 and Epping drops from 3.66 to 3.24.  

The caveat is that our calculation on P/G (points per game) do not adjust for 8 and 10 ends games.  This may sway the numbers slightly.  

The Favourites

Stephanie Lawton.  

A good team that beats good teams consistently, shocking they haven't been to the Scotties since 2009 (and 2005 before that).  Perhaps this will be the event.

- Lawton has a winning record against everyone in the field (6-6 against Nedohin is only .500 mark).  

- 51-29 (64%) against this field and 31-16 (66%) since the 2010/11 Season 

- 16-8 (9-2 since 10/11) vs Jones and 4-3 against Homan.

- Lawton's scoring ratio of 1.2 is highest with Jones far behind at 1.13 (trust me, it's farther than it looks).  5.96 PF/G versus 4.99 PA/G, the only team that surrenders less than 5 pts per game (depending on which digit you round up).  

Jennifer Jones

- The highest scoring team at this event generating 6.17 PF/G.  This is likely skewed by more play in the Scotties and hence more 10 end games, but it's still no surprise.  

- Lawton is the only team that gives them fits (see above), and a surprising 5-2 against Homan since 10/11 is a small sample but still of interest.

- Jones is 51-42 (54.8%) historical and 30-25 (54.5%) since 2010/11 against this field.

Rachel Homan

When this team plays it's best there are many who think they cannot be beat by anyone.  This is more because of their style than their actual record.  Teams that appear to stop other teams from scoring (see Kevin Martin when up 2 points) just seem more dominant than those that score more (see Howard, Jones).  Having said that, they are a great team that dominated at the 2013 Scotties and were a whisker form being in the World final, and only going to get better.

- Homan is 4-7 against Lawton and Jones since 2010/11 but still 22-17 (56.4%)overall against the field.

- Their 5.5 PA/G and 1.06 Scoring Ratio is not as great as many might have guessed.  Homan is great against good teams, but against this field they appear to actually be mortal.

- Remove Sweeting from their record and they are 19-17 since 2010/11.

The Contenders

Heather Nedohin

The 2012 Scotties Champion is 5th on Order of Merit and the lead contender of the remaining teams.  They are the only other team with a winning record against this field.  

- 32-26 (55%) since 2010/11 against this field.  

- Scoring Ratio of 1.03

- Losing records: 2-6 against Homan and 2-4 against Middaugh

Chelsea Carey

The other home town hopeful (Jennifer Jones being the other), Carey is 8th on the Order of Merit and defends enough to win.  Can they score enough is the question.

- 23-31 (43%) against this field since 2010/11

- Scoring Ratio of .97 is solid and shows they can battle these teams close.

 - 5.32 PA/G is 2nd to only Lawton, but their 5.15 PF/G is is second last and a full point behind their provincial rival.

- 4-12 against Jones since 2010/11.  Remove Jones and Carey is nearly a .500 team against the rest of the field.  But they will have to play Jones at least once during the week.

The Challengers

Renee Sonnenberg

Like Lawton, they experienced a crushing and unexpected defeat in their 2013 Provincial finals. They were hands down the best team at the Road to the Roar, rebounding from their A Final loss to Scott by winning the B event and beating her in the 1st Qualifier 12-4.  Can they contend for this event?

- 11-16 (40.7%) since 2010/11 against this field and 18-28 since 2003.  

- Can win against every team at the Trials.  Only 2-5 record against Nedohin of late jumps out.

- Scoring Ratio of .86 will have to improve.  

Sherry Middaugh

- Middaugh is 28-35 (44%) against the field since 2003 but only 10-18 (36%) since 2010/11 Season

- Scoring ratio of .84 is second from the bottom, and it includes all games. If we looked since 2010/11 I expect it is worse.

- Has no record against Sweeting.  Winning record against Nedohin and can beat every team there.

- Lawton appears to be her nemesis with a 5-11 record and 0-4 since 2010/11.

The Underdog

Val Sweeting

If Kelly Scott had won the last qualifier, I expect she would be ranked higher.  But she didn't. Team Sweeting once again surprised in an event she was unexpected to win (see 2010 Alberta provincial).

- 9-19 since 2010/11 against the field is only one victory different from Sherry Middaugh.

- A dismal 4.81 PF/G against this field and a Scoring Ratio of .79 are both well below the competition at this event.

- No wins against Lawton (0-4), Homan (0-3) and 2-5 against provincial rival Nedohin.  Those numbers will have to head in the other direction if Sweeting is to make a run.

Play-off Bound?

As mentioned, sample sizes are much smaller than the mens as these teams simply don't play as often against each other.  Let's look at Expected Wins based on both Record against the field since 2010/11 (EWR) and Points for/against , using Pythagorean theorem (EWP).

Lawton: EWR/EWP = 4.73/4.55

Jones: 3.96/4.21

Homan: 4.11/3.82

Nedohin: 4.01/3.65

Carey: 3.43/3.33

Sonnenberg: 2.91/2.71

Middaugh: 2.52/2.61 (would be 3.26 based on record from 2002/03)

Sweeting: 2.24/2.34

Despite their lack of success on the big stage, Lawton is the team to beat statistically.  In 2009 they lost in a tie breaker at The Trials.  Perhaps this year will be different?

In 2009 there were 3 teams at 4-3 and I expect several again this time.  Bernard's 6-1 was a phenomenal run and I also wouldn't be surprised if one of the favorites manages a similar feat to secure a spot in the finals. Late in that week, there was also a chance that of a 5 way tie at 3-4 and 7 teams making the play-offs.  Wouldn't that be something?

Look for favourable odds on Lawton and watch for poor odds on Middaugh based on her historical numbers.

Two evening draws during the Round Robin for the women with Wednesday being the Big Night with Nedohin vs Lawton and Homan vs Jones.  The four teams we should expect in the play-off, but stranger things have happened in the past.  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Preview to Canada's Olympic Roar Part I

I wonder who was it that came up with "Roar of the Rings".

The name was apparently first coined at the 2001 Olympic Trials.  If I recall, that was also the year that Rudy, now all grow'ds up (but still looking 16),  became Samwise Gamgee and a young Huckleberry Finn became Frodo Baggins in a Tolkien tale of a very similar name.  Warning, if you played Dungeons & Dragons or dress in costume when you go to movie premiers, repeat watching of this Frodo/Sam Youtube clip may send you out for extra Scotties tissues to absorb the tears.

Is this a Canadian thing that we always jump on the latest movie craze and name things after it?

I'm going to keep calling it simply The Trials.  It may not roll off the tongue like the Roar of the Rings (though the agent from the Delta Hotel in Winnipeg kept stumbling when trying to say it), but "The Trials" more succinctly defines the event.  Per Websters, a Trial is:

1a :  the action or process of trying or putting to the proof 
b :  a preliminary contest (as in a sport)
2:  the formal examination before a competent tribunal of the matter in issue in a civil or criminal cause in order to determine such issue
3:  a test of faith, patience, or stamina through subjection to suffering or temptation; broadly :  a source of vexation or annoyance
4a :  a tryout or experiment to test quality, value, or usefulness
b :  one of a number of repetitions of an experiment

You could make a case that all of these definitions apply to the upcoming Trials in Winnipeg.  Number 3 perhaps most of all.
I'm someone who likes the fact the British Open is actually The Open Championship (and not the Battle of Tipton "Green" ) and the winner is named The Champion Golfer of the Year.  Perhaps the winner of the 2013 Trials could be the Champion Curlers of the Quadrennial?
With Tim Horton's as the sponsor, perhaps it should instead be the Roll up The Rings or Roll up the Rink?

Enough preamble, let's get on with the Preview.

Mens Preview in Part I.  Women's Preview coming up in Part II.

The Favorites
Glenn Howard.  You could make a case that there are no favorites, and you'd probably get me to agree with you.  But who wants an event without putting at least one team on the dart board?
- Howard is historically (all time) 131-72 against this field (64.5%) and 75-38 since 2010/11 Season.
- Looking back to 2009 Martin was 110-66 (62.5%) and 76-35 (68.5%) coming into the Trials for Vancouver.  Eerily similar.
- Their record since 11/12  (with a few events the season before) includes the SAME TEAM.  McEwen has been together longer and Koe is the next closest.
- Glenn has a winning record against everyone except Martin, and 6-8 against Kevin since 10/11, including a win this years Masters final.

The Contenders
Kevin Martin
- Has a new third (Dave Nedohin) and has struggled with some health issues.  Historical record is still 122-77 (61.3%) against this field and 51-40 (56%) since 10/11.  Some could make the arguement that adjusting to a new third drops their chances even lower, but I'm not prepared to count Kevin out.  He's shown he can win with different teams over the years and despite limited playing time, they've already shown they can compete and win against the best in the world.
- 2-6 against Epping is a strange number that could be due to randomness or Epping's purchase of a KMart Voodoo doll (made available during the 2010 Olympics).
Mike McEwen
- 67-71 (48.6%) historical but 58-49 since 10/11 (54.2%) against this field. A winning record since 10/11 against all teams except Howard (6-12) and Koe (8-13).  
- 14-7 against Stoughton includes heartbreaking loses in Manitoba Provincials, but on Tour Mike seems to have Jeff's number.  Their Round Robin game will have the home crowd cheering both ways I expect.
Kevin Koe
- 73-92 (44.2%) and 50-58 (46.3%) since 10/11.  Take away his record against Howard (3-13 since 10/11) and the percentages jump over 50%.  Of course the one game Koe won against Howard in the 2010 Brier final, means more than all the other loses combined.
Jeff Stoughton
- A great season in 2012/13, minus the upset loss in the Brier final.  Still just 52-58 (47.3%) against this field since 10/11 Season and that includes a 12-7 record against
Cotter/Morris. Take that record out and Jeff drops to 44% (comparable to his historical record).

- 2-5 against Epping.  Hmmm yet again.

The Challengers
Based on recent results you could make a case that these next teams are also Contenders. But then we wouldn't have anyone in this section, and that would look odd.  If you like to bet curling online, look for good odds on both these teams.

John Epping
- They have a record of 34-33 since the 10/11 Season, including 5-2 (Stoughton), 6-2 (Martin), 5-1 (Jacobs) and 4-1 (Morris/Cotter).  They can beat every team at the Trials but John has still only won one Grand Slam event (Players in spring of 2012) and switching up his line-up at the end of last year may not be the answer.

Brad Jacobs
- Yes, they are the defending 2013 Brier Champions.  But this isn't the Brier and their record against this field is 27-38 (41.5%) since 10/11.  Remove the 7-2 mark against Morris/Cotter and it drops below 36%.

The Underdogs
- Their sample size with John as skip is small.  Combined Morris/Cotter is 19-52 (26.8%) since 10/11 against this field.
- With their fine showing at the Road to the Roar, you could argue them to be a Challenger.  But like a favorite, every event needs an underdog and this team is it.  I give them a much better chance than Gunner in 2009, they have big event experience and an Olympic champion holding the broom.

Play-off Bound?
Let’s examine chances of outcomes. These are based on handicapping analysis I have done. I used a combined weighting of historical and recent (since 2010/11) numbers. I will spare you the details of the numbers, other than to say if you’d like to bet on any games, please let me know.

Howard: Expected Wins(EW) is 4.80 and 6.9% chance to go undefeated (U).

Martin: EW=4.39 U=3.5%
McEwen: EW=3.73 U=1%
Koe: EW=3.27
Stoughton EW=3.25
Epping: EW=3.65
Jacobs EW=2.94
Morris/Cotter EW=1.97
Numbers would indicate this event is way too close to call.  Also, additions to teams (Nedohin to Martin, Mitchell to Epping, Morris joining Cotter) skew our analysis somewhat.  All of the teams at this event have experience and skills to beat anyone in the world.  This event may come down to a a handful of shots at the right or wrong moment.  

It will be a very gruelling contest which requires absolute focus and concentration while maintaining physical condition.  It will be interesting to see if the stamina of the younger teams combined with their recent success will overcome the confidence and experience of the older squads.  

I am making no predictions other than I expect at least one tie-breaker and many gasp moments throughout the week.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lex Luthor Wins!

Not certain if Team Koe are Vikings fans (but I am) and today they were the only team in purple that managed a victory.   The Vikings are now playing for a draft pick (2-14 here we come!).  Koe managed a 5-4 win in the final of the 2nd Grand Slam of the season, the Canadian Open. Strange that I hadn't noticed before but with these new uniforms, Kevin Koe bears a striking resemblance to Superman's  arch nemesis.

"Smile Kevin" asks David Amber from CBC. But what diabolic thoughts were hidden behind that evil grin? 

It was an entertaining contest with many interesting decisions which could be broken down by Curl With Math.  Unfortunately, in addition to writing an e-book I am working on a research paper to be submitted to the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.  Deadlines are approaching and the clock is ticking.  There is no time for lengthy analysis that will be debated by both of you reading this, but I have time for a few comments.

1. Koe had no choice but to try the in-off hit in the 4th end for a possible three.  Gushue in fact wanted to be lighter on his draw to avoid leaving this shot and have Kevin draw for one.  Even if Koe had an easy shot for 1 he would only need to make this shot around 40% of the time to be worth trying.  In fact, given he will often still get one or even two, it could be the right call if he makes 3 even half that often.

2. During the blanking of the 4th end by Koe there was discussion on this decision by the announcers as they tossed around some statistics (care of CurlingZone).  I've touched on the 2 hammers to 1 theory before, but we've only scratched the surface of digging into the numbers.  The research paper I am preparing may answer this question once and for all.  

3. Koe scored his deuce in the 5th end with the help of a missed corner guard.  Because guard attempt by Carter barely came across center, Gushue decided against peeling it.  Strange sometimes how a miss will create a favourable  situation that was unexpected.  In retrospect, maybe Koe should throw an off-centre guard as a way to entice Gushue to play into the rings.  

4.  More in the 5th.  Gushue attempted a double on his last shot but could have chosen a freeze instead, leaving a difficult shot or even no chance at two and have some chance of a possible steal.  Maybe Gushue was thinking he'd rather have a blank here and possibly get hammer in the last end (see number 2 above).

5.  Interesting scenario where Gushue on thirds first rock has to decide on playing a peel or a guard.  You don't often hear that discussed. A very interesting end that was only surpassed by..

6. The Final end.  I can't recall seeing such a strange turn of events in a final tied end.  Both tick shots were made but an unfortunate jam gave Gushue hope.  This hope was then quashed by Lex making and in-off hit for one to win the game.  It was nearly identical to the shot attempted in the 4th end for three.

7. Anyone notice the Saskatchewan Roughriders fans cheering to the camera?  It almost seemed like the Grand Slam had some real live excitement and then I realized they just wanted to be on TV.  Why else would you paint yourself for another sporting event that you're not attending?

Coming soon:  Olympic Trials Preview.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Residency and a 5th man for Martin

John Morris skipped his new team to an Olympic Trial qualifier.  He's also now become the topic of some discussion over a ruling made a few months ago.  John is allowed to particpate in the BC playdowns, depsite his primary residence in Alberta.  A new detailed policy was released by the CCA this past summer (find a copy in this thread).  Not certain how the ruling of a province is taken into account, but by the CCA policy, the following applies:

 To that end it has been agreed that an individual must provide a minimum of three of the following five items to the Member Association (if requested) whose playdown structure they wish to enter:

** Current Drivers License from that province/territory
** Current Health Care Card from that province/territory
** Letter from employer confirming employment within the province/territory
** Statement from landlord (if renting) or bank (if owned) confirming residency within the province/territory – a copy of a property tax invoice/payment for non-mortgaged property is also adequate
** Valid picture ID required for travel purposes if the individual does not have a valid driver’s license

John is not the first non-resident resident to compete in playdowns, and will certainly not be the last.  The exposure on this ruling has many people on the Curlingzone forums arguing/discussing/trolling about the fairness of this decision.  Many are opposed and extoll the history of the Brier and its sacred Purple Heart as a symbol of true provincial victory.  Others see it as no big deal, 3 out of 4 or 75% of a team being provincial isn't bad, is it?  Alberta/BC/Sask borders have long been adjusted for Brier playdowns.  Players in BC play in Alberta and players living in Alberta play in Saskatchewan (or maybe it's the opposite, in any case there is some overlap of territory).

With CTRS and ultimately Olympic Trials qualifier points given for Brier and Worlds it seems contrary to fair competition that some teams (those with 4 residents) have an opportunity to gain points when other teams cannot. Is it reasonable to assume that the best representative of Canada, be it at Worlds or Olympics, would come from the same town/province?  

With relegation and Team Canada in 2015, the Brier is changing.  Its become too big and too political to do anything else.  I'm not sure how to defend either side to this argument.  I like history and I don't like it changing for the worse.  Instant replay in baseball seems like a problem, but if its incorporated properly it may come as a minor element that actually improves the game.  I'm a realist and a sentimentalist, often these two philosophies clash.

The Brier is still the biggest there is.  It's still Alberta vs Saskatchewan, Ontario vs Manitoba.  John playing in BC or Pat Simmons in Alberta doesn't change that feeling for the average fan and it likely doesn't greatly impact other teams chances at their local provincials.  Cotter's team is good enough to get out of BC without Morris.  

Isn't the idea of playing for your home club/town/province more for little league anyway?  Grown men who are raised playing basketball in LA don't necessarily play for the Lakers.  Maybe provinces should start to recruit players in an attempt to be more competitive.  PEI could set Mike McEwen up with a nice cottage on the water and a part time job at the local pub.  With relegation, this might become necessary to even participate in (the round-robin portion of) the Brier.  I know, you are shaking your head but pause and think about it one more time.... it could happen.

Now, if we start to see 4 young kids from Manitoba take "residence" in the Yukon, maybe people will become more vocal about this behaviour and things will change.  For now, the average fan could care a less if their provincial rep has a single mail-order player on their squad. The players involved will have their own feelings and if John Morris should wear a Purple Heart from his third province, he'll know if it feels any different than the ones from Alberta and Ontario.

The 5th Man

After losing the last qualifier spot to Brad Jacobs, 2006 Gold medal winner Brad Gushue will be the 5th man for Team Kevin Martin at the upcoming Roar of the Rings. If this means that he won't be able to compete in Provincials or the Brier should they win the Olympic spot, then it's possibly a poor decision.  Brad has a young developing team and it would be disappointing not to have them gain more experience together and possibly make a run in Kamloops.  If he is able to play in the Brier, then it's a great opportunity to learn and gain experience from seeing how Kevin Martin (and David, Marc and Ben) go about their business.  Some part of this decision feels detrimental to Brad's team, but if the commitment doesn't challenge their schedule, it could be better for them in the long run.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

On the Road at the Road to the Roar

I was fortunate to be live for the final game of the 2013 version of the pre-qualifier to the qualifier for the Olympics.  

Here is the view from my seat.  Notice the overhead jumbotron is NOT showing TSN.  Apparently the sponsors wanted that space for themselves.  I would not have given in to this type of request and tried to appease them some other way.   Having an overhead view of the house is great for the fan and not having it makes me want to watch at home.

The final was an entertaining and well played contest.  Jacobs was in good position early with a deuce, then surrendered two steals to go down, rebounded with a three and then held out for the win.  Something I noticed from Gushue in the morning draw reminded me of his tendancy to call difficult shots for himself when it isn't always necessary.    

Against Laycock in the 7th end and holding a 4 to 1 lead without hammer, Gushue faces this with his first shot:

Gushue is Yellow

He chooses to play a peel on the red rock sitting second stone.  A much easier shot would be to hit the rock in the top twelve foot.  Gushue makes the shot, pushing his shot yellow stone to the back button.  Laycock is then left with another freeze attempt.  He comes a foot heavy and Gushue then plays a straight back double for two, and makes it.  The result is a blank, the best outcome possible other than a steal.  Gushue's chance to win goes from 90% at the start of the end to 93%. If Laycock had scored two, Gushue would have dropped to 83%, still a dominant position.  If Gushue had missed or just clipped the top rock, leaving it in the rings, and brought 3 in to play, his odds could have dropped to 64%.  The chance of this happening is, granted, very small, but why introduce the risk?  Even making the shot, if Laycock had thrown a better freeze, Gushue would have been forced to peel the top and surrender a deuce, or possibly risk jamming the run back and giving up three (wonder which shot he would have called).  The shot called didn't appear to improve Gushue's chances enough to justify the risk he was introducing, even though the outcome still was favorable. Fortunately for Brad, he is a great player and makes a lot of shots, but this scenario reminded me that he sometimes makes it harder on himself than he needs to.

In the final game against Jacobs, Gushue made a call in the 9th end that backfired.  Down two points with hammer and three rocks to come, Gushue faces this with his first shot:

Gushue is Red

Note, this graphic has not been confirmed as correct.  I was at the far end of the rink and did not recall the exact position of the house. I had a Tivo malfunction, the game was not recorded and the soon to follow analysis is subject to scrutiny if the location of the rocks are different than shown.  If you recorded the game please send me a more accurate diagram. 

Gushue decides to draw and freeze for third shot (green line).  He makes a great shot. Jacobs then places a guard in front of the rock Gushue just threw and Gushue is left with no choice but to draw for a single.  Perhaps he thought Jacobs would try a peel on the red rock, maybe even try to make a difficult double.  Gushue needs to take chances.  Even a deuce only puts him tied coming home without hammer, a 20% proposition.  Maybe he was trying to entice Jacobs into something and hope for a miss and possble three.  If Gushue had chosen to draw for shot stone (blue line), he forces Jacobs to make a play on the rock.  When deciding what to do with the 14th rock of the end, skips must always consider the risk of not being shot stone and what options that leaves their opponent. I wonder what Brad was thinking on that shot decision.


Naturally, I had no idea what I was looking at and in fact the above analysis, though possibly interesting, does not reflect the actual situation.  The rocks were as follows:

Gushue is, um, ah, Yellow

Not only did I screw up the house, I didn't even have the correct colour of the rocks!  Clearly I was not paying enough attention at this stage of the game.  Much more understandable now why Gushue would choose to freeze to that rock.  I'd like to blame the event and their lack of overhead camerawork, but more likely this is simply a mistake on my part. 

Some part of my analysis however still holds true.  Gushue threw a freeze and was second shot.  As I stated, consideration must be made of what the opponent might do if you choose not to be shot stone.

Jacobs could have tried to pick out the yellow rock that was frozen, though he would likely loose his shot stone and Gushue could hit for two. He could also choose to hit the open red stone but then Gushue would have a simple shot for two.  By guarding, Jacobs made it impossible for Gushue to get two with a made shot and his only risk in missing was leaving a shot for two, not for three.  Possibly Gushue was trying to line up his freeze differently so that a shot for three would be in play if the guard was attempted and missed.  If Gushue had been more on the high side of the rock, some chance this could come in to play, but in all likelyhood Jacobs would see the potential and peel the rock out, possibly leaving himself first and second and still forcing Gushue to one, or even playing a double on the two yellow stones.

As difficult as it looks, Gushue may have been better to attempt a soft weight double on the red stones with his first shot, roll to the side of the rings sitting two and hope Jacobs is not left with a double.  Another option could have been to hit and stick on the back stone, leaving a possible double but chance for two if missed.  If Jacobs attempted to hit and stick for two, he would likely leave a double for Gushue.  In any case, the shot called and made left them with no chance at two.

Note: I am attempting to complete a curling e-book in time for the 2014 Olympics. This may reduce the number of words and amount of analysis I am able to generate for next few months.  Hopefully my dozen of fans won't mind and it will all be worth it.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Some things never change

Someone should take Kevin Martin and Glenn Howard and check the bottom of their feet to find the expiry date.  Once again its a Grand Slam and once again we find these two grizzled veterans battling in the finals.  Actually, if there is a word for those who are beyond veteran, then Glenn Howard has reached it.  "Wise curling sage" perhaps?  Checking the mileage under their respective hoods would scare even the most vintage car enthusiast.  Consider that Kevin Martin's 1985 Canadian Junior title is reaching its 30 year anniversary.  Glenn participated in his first Brier the following year, 1986, at the age of 25.  Many of the players on the ice at this years Masters were not around to witness those milestones, they weren't even born.

I was watching a fantastic new ESPN 30 for 30 last night, This is What They Want .  It's the story of Jimmy Conners miracle run at the 1991 US Open at the age of 39.  It made me think of guys like Glenn and Kevin and consider at what point they will become Jimmy Conners in 91, or Tom Watson in 2009, or any spectacular sports story of rebirth which ends in an ultimate disappointment because, frankly, we really can't expect someone at their age winning it all.  I'm starting to think in curling, that age may never come. These two are still one of the favourites in every event they enter, including the most difficult events in the world, the Grand Slams.

The Brier is tough.  The battle to win the Canadian National Championship each year begins with a Provincial competition (for many teams even earlier with regional playdowns).   The Brier is a stage that is unlike any Grand Slam event.  For the top teams, many of the competitors at a Brier are barely competition at all.   Many Provinces simply do not have the elite level teams that can win consistently enough to take the title.  Yet the crowds and the excitement can create an atmosphere that is rarely seen and these two have certainly won their share in recent years, (4 of the last 7, with Martin having to bypass an opportunity one year to win an Olympic gold medal).  

The Grand Slams still have not been able to generate the same atmosphere.   It's disappointing to watch this years Masters and still see so many empty seats in an arena for some of the best curling in the world.  Bill Russell won 11 Championships with a Celtics team that often playing to a half empty Boston Garden. Maybe one day Kevin or Glenn will also have statues erected and fans will recognize their historic achievements for what they were (still are), incredible.

A Grand Slam is the hardest and most difficult event to win.   It may not have the grind that is the playdowns to Provincial to Brier to Worlds, but as a single event over an extended long weekend nothing comes close to the level of competition.  In the long road to win a World title, great teams more often falter mentally or physically, and beat themselves along the way.  In a Grand Slam, you lose if you don't deliver your A game from the first shot to the last.

Martin and Howard have won 27 of 49 since 2002 (the modern 4 rock FGZ era).  If you add Howard's third Wayne Middaugh and his 5 wins as a skip and Martin third David Nedohin's 3 wins throwing fourth for Randy Ferbey, that's an incredible 35 of 49 or 71%. Only 9 of these last 49 Grand Slam finals have not included one of these four characters.  Add your own four letter expletive here. 

Some day this is going to end.  It may be very soon.  Then again, for those who keep chasing these guys, it can't come soon enough.  It's possible the younger challengers are wishing this sport had never embraced physical conditioning and preparation.  If so, maybe Kevin and Glenn would be battling smokers cough and nursing too many CC and Coke hangovers to maintain this elite level.  The "next ones" have shown in recent years that their level of play has reached the bar that Kevin and Glenn and their teams have set and they are ready to take over.  Maybe just not yet.

Note: I am attempting to complete a curling e-book in time for the 2014 Olympics. This may reduce the number of words and amount of analysis I am able to generate for next few months.  Hopefully my adoring fan won't mind and it will all be worth it.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Kevin Martin following first game against Morris

Colin Hodgson catches up with Kevin Martin at the Point Optical Curling Classic following his first game against John Morris since their part last spring.

Check out this episode!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Procrastination and PEDs

It can be easy to delay starting something if you're feeling down.  Everyone needs time to feel a little depressed, savour and wallow in the sheer listlessness of a day or two (while binge watching Arrested Development, Breaking Bad or perhaps the Wire, because everyone has told you to), but if you can't recover after a week it's likely you are just lazy or should seek professional help.  I just survived 7 months of Edmonton winter so that I can enjoy 23 straight days of rain, and now a heat wave, and I've been feeling down.  Maybe that's why I have been procrastinating several things these past few months.

I still haven't written articles to analyze the finals of the Brier or the Worlds (much less the Grand Slam final from December).  I'd like to write an e-book before the Olympics, but haven't gotten much past the Table of Contents.  I started to clean out my garage (but haven't finished), which means it is so cluttered with things to throw out, things to sell (anyone want a Little Tikes Basketball Hoop?), and just plain things, that it cannot be inhabited by vehicles.  My office is still in a state of "nearly finished organzining". And my 2012 Taxes are at least piled together, and have managed not to spontaneously combust in this unusual Central Alberta heat.

There's likely a half dozen other things I'm putting off doing but it's been so long that their importance has worn off and the likelyhood of ever doing them is coming into question.

But I had been watching Sunday Night TV (Game of Thrones/Mad Men), Arrested Development, and the NBA and NHL Playoffs.  And now they are all done.  No more excuses.

At my age it seems unrealistic that I can use the devastating 6th game loss by my Bruins as an excuse (my father was a Habs fan, and we are both devils advocates, so it was natural).  The manner in which it took place, losing in the final 80+ seconds, was dumbfounding, but I'm still proud of the season, the team, and mostly disappointed we were deprived a seventh game, win or lose.  Of course, we did see over 7 games of hockey if you include the extra three periods of game 1.  Memories of Petr Klima in '91 and the famous play-off battle between the Capitals vs Islanders from 1987, which at 15 I stayed up to watch, caring little for which team won but knowing it would somehow matter.  And now I realize it doesn't.

The NBA playoffs treated us to a seventh game, and though it was hard fought and close to the end, it fell short of what may go down as one of the best finals games ever in game 6.  As I started to pull for different players and teams throughout each play-offs, I constantly remind myself, as a grown man who has reached the limits of his own disappointments, that the losers still make enough money to get by allright.

Curlers, on the other hand, are still working towards a higher level of fame and fortune.  For some, reaching the Olympic level can also mean being held to the same standards of other athletes when it comes to PEDs. Ask Jacobs fifth man Matt Dumontelle how it feels after being surprised with a 2 year suspension.  What a bunch of horse droppings.

Experts, from many sports, continually stay ahead of the system and those that get caught are most often either because of stupid mistakes or unaware of the correct application of the rules.  I only wonder what the outcome may have been at the World's if Matt had played.  In our Around The House podcast  with Stoughton third Jon Mead, we were told that most of their team was battling sickness during their provincial final weekend, but couldn't take many over the counter substances because they could be considered PEDs.  Once again, horse droppings.

If you read the article, you'll notice the rest of the Jacobs team "remain friends" with Matt but in "no way condone his actions".  I expect these comments fall in the category of, say what you are expected to say so the governing bodies don't get angry, rather than what you really think.

I certainly don't know anything further than the article states, and maybe I'm off base, but I doubt that anyone was trying to gain an edge on the ice.  The punishment also seems severe.  A 2 year ban within Canadian competition? I for one would like to think Canada could use a more minor punishment for a first time offender, especially if what was taken is legal (maybe in Matt's case it wasn't?).  For a sport that was built (and sponsored) by cigarettes, beer, and the occasional CC and coke, it seems a travesty that Joe Frans gets a 2 year ban for experimenting with coca plants and Matt gets the same for his actions.

Maybe the CCA had little choice, they are governed by larger entities, but regardless of how this penalty is determined, if you examine all the factors, and also admire the feats of other great athletes who actually benefit from PEDs, and don't get caught, it all appears ridiculous.

Now maybe I can find a PED to stop me from procrastinating...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

April 24 2013 with Colin Hodgson

Colin Hodgson joins the crew for the end of year wrap up show. We discuss the HUGE news to start off the show as John Morres decideds to leave Kevin Martin just 7 months before the Olympic Trials in Winnipeg. As well we wrap up the Men's World Curling Championship, the Player's Championship & year end wrap-up.

Check out this episode!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Curling Week Unlike Any Other

As I await yet another April snowfall in Central Alberta, I thought it was about time I refelected on the final chapter of the Curling Season.  No, not the Players Championship, the Men's World Championships.  The Players is, I suppose, the final event, much like the $10 million dollar Fed Ex Cup/Tour Championship is played after the PGA Championship.  One day the Fed Ex Cup (or perhaps the 2037 Nike Cup) might carry similar historic signifigance, but for now Major Golf ends in August and not September, and Major Curling ends at the World's.  And, with so many non-Canadian countries getting even better, this event will perhaps begin to gain acknowledgement that it does have some of the best teams in the world, even if there is only one competing team wearing a maple leaf.

Am I the only one that hears the name "Players" and thinks back to the old days of corporate sponsorship by tobacco companies?  You know, back (before 2000) when Canada still had an LPGA Major.  The Brad Jacobs rink would not fit the proper image for a poster from a "MacDonald (Tobacco) Brier.

William H. Macy enjoys a smoke while sweeping skip George C. Scott's final draw in the 1978 "Celebrities with Middle Initials" Bonspiel 

The Players will still be an interesting event, for a few reasons.  

Money: Team Rachel Homan is playing for $100,000 Bonus if they should capture the second of the Womens sponsored Grand Slams.   Kevin Koe's squad you might recall lost their chance at $1 million when they were unable to win the Canadian Open, the 2nd Grand Slam of the season.  They will have a chance to share in the $100,000 bonus split between the top 3 Mens teams, based on performance at all four Grand Slams. 

Fame: Team Brad Jacobs may have fallen short in their bid as World Champions in 2013, but their Brier victory and Silver medal performance puts them one single point ahead  (ok, 1.025) of John Epping for the final "auto" berth to the Olympic Trials.  The Players will provide the final opportunity for these two teams (or Gushue I suppose, if they both fail to show up) to capture that final spot and avoid playing in the Pre-Trials next November.  

Love: Played in the previous home of the once again mighty, lucky to sneak into the playoffs, Maple Leafs, this event is a test to see how much Torontonians love Curling.  Many fans have thought a Toronto Brier long overdue.  The Canadian National Championship (aka The Brier) was started in Toronto in 1927 and played there until 1940 when it started becoming "National" and moved to Winnipeg.  In 1941 it was returned to Toronto for one more show and hasn't been back since.  If this event can succeed, maybe our National Championship can return to Hogtown once again.

Can you spot the Curling Club in this picture?

While we anxiously await the Players, I'll take a look back at some interesting decisions made during the final weekend of the 2013 Mens Worlds.

Page Playoff (1 vs 2): Dave Murdoch, Scotland vs. Niklas Edin, Sweden 

Before I analyze this game, let me make a suggestion to those folks who manage curling in Scotland and suggest you don't continue with a rotating 5 man team.  

Some people have suggested it could be beneficial in curling to change things up to find the player who's "hot".  Others say you should not take this approach because it challenges the traditions of a 4 man team.  I don't subscribe to either and suggest that a team stay with four players for an event for these reasons:

1. You can't substitute during a game.  Just because Spike Albrecht was hitting three pointers in the NCAA basketball championship didn't stop their coach from bringing in Player of the Year Trey Burke (his two fouls did in the first half at least).  If Basketball had no substitution and the option was playing Albrecht instead of Burke, despite Spike's being 6 for 6 on 3 point shots heading into the game, he still rides the pine.  

2.  There aren't really substantial differences in specialized skills.  Again, looking at basketball, players have various skills which can be used in a game.  Some players are defensive specialists, strong rebounders, or good sinking baskets from outside the three point line.  Some have size, others quickness.  In curling, you need each player to make his shots and either sweep well or call line well.  That's about it.  Perhaps you could have a "tick" specialist or "heavy hitter" but these aren't significant enough to justify sitting a player over another for an entire game (see number 1 above).  

3. Small sample sizes can lead to incorrect analysis.  I know, it's easy to look at a player after the fact and determine that he or she was "losing it" or not at their peak.  Maybe the truth is that person just isn't as good as you thought they were. Or more likely it's just the result of randomness.  It's like a baseball manager "over" coaching during the play-offs and juggling the line-up in order to create more offence.  If it works, and the team suddenly hits, they look like a genius, when the truth is the line-up has very little bearing on a single game (and some research supports it even has minimal impact on a 162 game season).  If you are prepared to pull a player after the 5th game of an 11 game round robin, then you are assuming that their performance in the next game will be worse than your alternate, based on the outcome of 90-100 rocks thrown.  That might seem like a lot, but it's actually a very small sample size, especially in a game where most shots are similar (and usually successful) and the difference between a made shot and a terrible one can be an extra brush of the broom, and error in communication or even a mismatched stone.  I'd suggest you find your best four players before the event starts and play them unless someone is physically unable to perform at their peak due to injury (or excessive celebration).

In the 8th end, down 5-3 with hammer, Scotland has a mess of guards and keep attempting raises when they could have drawn to the four foot, especially on skips first shot. Murdoch attempts the runback on hist first (blue shot) when perhaps a draw (green) could have had led to better chance at a deuce.

Scotland is Red

Interesting that Sweden played the end very aggressive, perhaps because of the way the it developed or that was their original intent.  The raise is missed and Scotland eventually makes a tap-tap (tap?) for a single point.

In the 9th end, up 5-4 with hammer, Sweden gets into trouble. If not for a miss on Murdoch's first, they may have faced a possible a steal of two.  Edin is able to clear guards on his first and Murdoch is looking at this with his last shot:

Sweden is Yellow

Rather than throw a guard (green), Scotland choses to draw for second shot (blue), leaving Niklas a wide open  hit for 1 and a 2 point lead.  Not certain I agree with this call.  They likely felt if the guard is too long  the shot would be makeable by Niklas for 2 or 3 and if too short he would have a raise double for two.  I much prefer creating some chance, if even slight, to steal, rather than surrendering an automatic single point.  Two down playing the 10th and your chances are 11.7% but a steal will double your chances to roughly 24%.  Even if you leave Edin a chance at two or more 20% of the time, you would only need to steal 1 in 10 for the guard to be correct.  As it turned out, Edin actually missed his hit and stick and gave up a steal of one.  So much for my analysis, I guess they were right all along.

In the 10th end, Murdoch is unable to put his last shot in the perfect spot and Edin makes his draw to the four foot for the win.

Page Playoff (3 vs 4): Brad Jacobs, Canada vs Rasmus Stjerne, Denmark  

Canada and Team Jacobs finds themselves again in the 4th spot, without hammer, identical to their position at the Tim Horton's Brier.  (Spoiler Alert), they win this game and the subsequent semi-final against Scotland to make the finals, where they lose to Sweden.  It is still an incredible feat considering they played 6 playoff games, against the strongest teams at each event, without hammer, second choice of rocks, and managed to come up just a few shots short of being crowned World Champions.  If you consider teams to be of equal calibre, hammer should win roughly 60% of the time.  So, if we consider Jacobs equal with Howard and Stoughton (and I expect some people might at this point), and with Denmark and Scotland (debatable perhaps with one of those non-English speaking teams) then their chance of even getting to the World finals following the Brier Round Robin was about 1%.  

Yes kids, 1% or +990.

Rasmus keeps Canada close with a couple of misses.  In the 3rd end Denmark scores 2 rather than 3 and a possible steal in the 5th end is turned into a blank when he is unable to get an inside roll with his last.  

Rasmus makes a nice freeze in the 6th end after Jacobs comes deep with his first, but an angle double allows Canada to take two points and regain the lead, 4-3.

I liked the force Canada played in the 7th end.  They could have thrown a guard, attempting a steal but would have left two different angle raises for two.  They instead chose to hit an open Denmark rock and ensure no worse than a single, and the final shot by Stjerne had some amount of difficulty.  

In the 8th end, Rasmus attempted two raises with his final shots, both times removing shot stone but unable to keep their promoted guard in the rings for shot.  The result is a deuce by Canada and a 6-4 lead.  On his first, Rasmus attempted to remove a Canada stone biting the top four foot.  He could have attempted a draw around to the back four rather than the raise, but perhaps the spot did not curl enough or he was less comfortable with that shot.  

In the 9th end, Denmark chose to throw up another corner guard on third's last rock (blue).  They could have chosen to draw around the top two rocks at this stage (green).  I might have preferred this over the guard. 

Canada is Red

There is some danger in the come around leaving a chance for Canada to clear everything, but that could be avoided with proper placement of the rock.  This call also brings in the slight chance of a three point score (anyone see Howard versus Stoughton a few weeks ago?). They consider this shot on skips first stone but instead choose to hit their top yellow and attempt to roll away.  Good case can be made for both shots at this stage as either call can result in a deuce, much depends on the skip's comfort with the shot.  Brad has a good chance at a double but throws his final shot a little wide and Denmark is able to draw for a deuce.

Not much strategy to discuss in the 10th end, but Canada third Ryan Fry makes a cool shot that we should draw just for fun.  Needless to say, fans were very loud after this shot...

Denmark is Yellow

Even Ryan's usually stoic dad, 1979 Brier champ Barry Fry was seen on camera sharing a Wiser's clap.  

On Denmark's first skip rock, they choose to tap back Canada to sit two behind the tee and their shooter stays top twelve foot.  Brad chooses to draw top button and Jacob's final shot isn't needed to secure the win.

Semi-Final: Canada vs Scotland

Scotland third Tom Brewster sits on the bench this game (see my comments above on that one).  Canada is 1 down with hammer in the third end and time for another highlight shot by Ryan Fry:

Canada is Red

Jacobs makes a mistake two shots later however.  Choosing to come around the corner guard at an attempt for a possible three, he leaves Murdoch a double and the result is a blank.  I didn't like Brad's call for a come around here because his shot stone was nearly wide open (perhaps 1/8 buried).  I wrote about a similar call during the 7th end of the 2012 Manitoba Provincial Semi-Finals.  Jacobs is trying to make a teaser shot, but he can't make a shot where Murdoch won't have a high percentage chance to pick him out anyway.  In other words, the chance for three is very slim. Better to play to the open side and ensure the deuce.

In the 5th end, after a peel by Canada second EJ Harnden, Scotland is looking at this, down 2-1 with hammer:

Scotland is Yellow

Murdoch choses to try a hit and roll and ends up sitting on the nose.  An alternate shot might have been to play a split on the top yellow rock.  I rarely see this type of call but when used at the right itme it can create difficulty for the opponent.  It may have been too early in the end in this example, but after Ryan Fry hits on the nose, Scotland calls the same shot on thirds first. They end up making the hit and roll and Canada is unable to make a runback double with the tight guard.  Jacobs avoids a deuce primarily because of a miss on David Murdoch's first stone.  On his last, David could have chose to double off the top two Canada stones for a blank, but instead elects to draw for his single.  With 5 ends remaining, taking one or blanking is nearly identical (39 to 40%) so he should call the shot he expects to make more often.

Lots of discussion in the 6th end before Ryan Fry's last shot.  Tied 2-2, Canada is sitting first and third:

Canada is Red

They consider a draw, a tap and roll off the yellow in the rings and peeling either guard.  Peeling the corner is a dangerous decision that leaves an opportunity for Scotland to make a hit and roll to sit two and turn  around the end.  You can make a case for the draw but peeling the centre, with an attempt to tick the yellow out if thrown perfectly, does appear to be the best choice.  Ryan manages the peel but is unable to remove the yellow stone sitting second.  Murdoch makes a soft hit and roll off his yellow in the rings, but is unable to remove the Canada rock.  Scotland sits first and second, Canada third and fourth.  Jacobs makes a freeze with his first and Scotland faces this with their last:

Scotland is Yellow

They choose to try a double on the two red Canada stones, hoping they will stick to sit two (green lines).  A difficult shot that David ends up missing by a fraction of an inch.  The result is a soft inturn hit for three and a 5-2 lead by Canada.  Scotland would have been much better choosing to freeze on top of the Canada stone or attempt a nose hit to sit shot stone in front of Canada.  Even if the angles didn't align well, a 3 would not have been possible.  One of these shots also gives them a small chance at a steal.  This is a case where one poor call shifted the game and a mistake in strategy played as large a role in the outcome as execution.  

A steal in the 8th and Canada ends up with a win after 9 ends.

Canada and Sweden in the World Mens Finals, coming shortly....