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Monday, January 21, 2013

A New, Yet Still the Same, TSN Skins

This past weekend we were all subjected  fortunate to see a new flavour of Skins Curling on TSN.  Rather than having four of the top mens teams in Canada, or spice the event up with a European team or a Woman's team, 2013 presented us with a real life sports fantasy draft.  This also made for one of the more awkward 30 minutes in the history of sports television, but I must admit it was strangely fascinating watching the Vic Rauter hosted broadcast of "the draft".  

In case you missed it, fans were able to vote for their favorite players.  The top four from each position were recruited to play in the 2013 Dominion All-Star Skins presented by Pinty's and hosted at Casino Rama.  Kevin Martin, Kevin Koe, Glenn Howard and Jeff Stoughton were the top skips.  Not much surprise given in the last 6 years they have won every Brier, a bundle of Grand Slams, World Championships and even an Olympic Gold.

On Thursday before the event, a draft was held where each of the skips chose their teammates, a key rule being you could not chose your own teammate unless they were the only one remaining.

For anyone who's never done a fantasy pool, a "snake" draft allows for the sap who has to pick last in the first round, the ability to pick first in the next round.  In this event, Kevin Martin chose first, eight and nine while Stoughton chose fourth, fifth and twelve (the dreaded final pick). Pat Simmons was that final pick and, without much explanation, trotted out one of those really large cheques with a donation for the Schmirler Foundation.  

Of the four teams the top voted skips represented, only Wayne Middaugh and Mark Nichols were not particpating.      Steve Gould (previously with Stoughton) and BJ Neufeld of Team Mike McEwen were worthy replacements, though not having Wayne (who apparently had other commitments) at a Skins event did feel odd.

I won't go into the details of the actual draft results, but suprisingly there is already a Wikipedia page for that information.  Everyone appeared a little uncomfortable, and watching grown men hand shake and "man-hug" doesn't really make for top entertainment during this golden age of television (at least not on cable).  There were some interesting decisions made, related to which position was chosen when (2 leads went in the first round).  I could even analyze the approach and talk about how use of game theory could enable you to chose the best possible team (at least on paper), but that would be only interesting to maybe two other people and likely well beyond what the skips were thinking I expect.  

And then, on Saturday and Sunday, we were able to watch these new All-Star teams play each other.  Except, they aren't really all-star teams, in the sense of Major League Baseball or the NBA.  10 of the 12 players already play together and one (Steve) did as recent as last year.   It was more like having your four favourite albums on your iPod then putting them in a single playlist and hitting shuffle.  

As always with Skins, lots of rocks in play, lots of circus shots and a couple of draws to the button for more money than you get for winning most bonspiels.  It was still skins, it was still only (mildly) interesting to me and the fact players were on different teams didn't really add to any entertainment value.  

Not much math to discuss.  Years ago, in the early days of this event, players like Kevin Martin and Wayne Middaugh had already figured out the strategy of sacrificing skins to play for hammer at the right time in order to maximize the chance to win and move on.  In the past, when the winner returned each year, it was even more critical to win the entire event.  This is more an event of "angles", including the one   we saw in Kevin Koe's quadruple (or was it a quintupple) takeout to move ahead of Stoughton in the semi-final.

I was really glad to see Steve Gould make some cash with (All-Star) Team Howard.   Even if he was a little out of shape sweeping a few of those draw shots (he actually held the broom for the draw against Kevin Martin).  Well done Steve and good luck with Team Jacobs in the upcoming playdowns.

In other news, congratulations to Skip James Pahl and Third Mark Klinck for winning their spot in the Alberta Provincials.  These guys continue to call themselves retired, then show up for playdowns and beat most of the field.  A lesson to all of us that try to leave the game, don't ever enter because you actually might win.  Mark, who will be missing his planned Mexican vacation to instead curl in Leduc, once said to me "the problem with curling in playdowns is, if you win, it inevitably leads to more curling".  So true.


  1. Another great article! If you're not going to write the article about gaming the draft (and I don't blame you!) can you link to some other articles or resources on the subject?


  2. Minor clarification: neither Wayne Middaugh nor Mark Nichols were on the ballot so I would say "failed to receive enough votes to participate" is a bit misleading.

    1. Thanks for the correction. I have edited the original article.