Now Available! EBook from CWM

Now Available! EBook from CWM
Order Now from Amazon

You can also get an epub copy


Friday, March 4, 2016

Scotties Strategy and Brier Preview

Wrapping up my week of work and heading to Ottawa tomorrow morning, but just enough time to look back at a strange call from the Scotties Final and a look ahead to what could be the most competitive Brier in history.

This was the first year of TSN expanding coverage of the Scotties (as they did with last year, and now this year's Brier). There are too many games on my PVR to catch up but from what I've seen so far there is a sense of strange strategy throughout the event. I'm not sure if this was attributed to new sweeping techniques (and over emphasis of their impact), the condition of the ice, or just my imagination. In every game I watched it seemed there were 1 or 2 calls that did not make sense. I don't have the time to go through everything, but here were a couple of key shots.

In the semi-final, Jennifer Jones chose to hit a rock in the eight foot rather than draw to the four foot. She even mentions the hit felt like the easier shot. Ultimately, she rolled too far and McCarville stole 2 to go up 1 into the last end. In a vacuum, this call makes no sense. McCarville's 2nd and 3rd shots are full twelve foot and all Jennifer has to do is at least bite the eight foot to give up a steal of one and be tied with hammer coming home. To believe a hit was easier implies the ice was not conducive to making any draw and perhaps not up to the quality it should have been for the Scotties final weekend.

In the final game, Krista McCarville is tied without hammer against Chelsey Carey and facing this:

McCarville is Red

Krista choses to hit on the nose to sit second in the top twelve foot (green line) rather than attempt a double on the two Alberta stones (blue line). She mentions that by hitting on the nose she'll force Chelsea to draw with the inturn. Perhaps it was an unknown path, but all Carey needed was (take note Jen), to bite the eight foot for her deuce. I don't understand why, if she intended to surrender the deuce, she didn't just blast the rock out of play and take away any risk of a jam. If Krista was worried about jamming on the double attempt, it was just as likely based on the shot she attempted. The promoted stone missed the back yellow by one or two inches. Maybe she felt confident her sweepers could keep it straight, but didn't Jennifer's rock over curl in an almost identical shot the previous game? If you don't like the double, I also like the call to hit the back yellow stone, attempting to roll partially behind the top yellow stone and put more pressure on Carey's final shot. In the end, Krista made a riskier shot than she needed to get to the same result, a deuce, when a similar or possibly easier shot could have held Chelsea to one.

Brier Preview

Recent posts on the Curlingzone forum suggest this is one of the toughest Brier fields in history. Not sure it's the hardest to win but may be the toughest "field". If you were one of the other 11 teams during Kevin Martin's 2 year run in 2008 and 2009 (26-0) you might say it was the toughest Brier ever, because there was no way you were going to win. 2016 may, however, be the deepest. Glenn Howard is ranked 5th according to online betting sites. You can't even blame the entry of Team Canada; take out Simmons (odds have them ranked 7th) and it still might be the toughest field ever assembled.

Past notable Briers of the FGZ Era:

1995. Burtnyk, Martin, Hackner, Folk, Werenich, Heidt (with Dacey). Seven teams 6-5 or better. Two more were 5-6. Five teams had 7 wins or more and made the playoffs.

2001. Burtnyk, Ferbey, Hackner (past his prime), Middaugh, Dacey, Hemmings, Harcourt and Sullivan's were no slouches either. Seven teams were 6-5 or better, two more at 5-6.

2009. Martin dominates a field that includes Howard, Stoughton, Gushue, Menard, R Howard, Dacey. You could call 2007 through 2012 the Howard-Martin-Stoughton years, with one Koe thrown in during 2010 over Howard. The big three dominated over that period.

I think Ottawa has the most wide open field in some time with many teams either nearing their potential peak level (Jacobs, Koe, MacEwan, Gushue), one who may be getting close as well (Laycock) one fallen from their mark but still grinding (Howard), one a wild mess that showed they can do it despite adversity (Simmons) one who can make shots but hasn't been able to put it all together (Cotter). A tough Brier out (Menard) and up and coming squad (Casey). 

With a little digging, I was able to calculate the head-to-head records of the top 8 teams against each other since the 2010 Olympics and since the 2014 Olympics. Some skew in the numbers as I counted all Cotter games whether they included John Morris skipping and counted numbers from Team Koe before 2014 as Team Simmons. Here's what I found:

  • Howard is 68.7% since 2010 but only 41.9% (13-18) since 2014 against this lineup.
  • Only McEwen (37-18), Koe (27-23) and Gushue (28-21) are better than .500 since the last Olympics.
  • Jacobs is at 49% (25-26). Simmons 43.3% (13-17) and Laycock is 20-30 for 40%.
  • Cotter is the only team below 40% (32.1% at 9-19) in that time frame.
  • Gushue has shown the best improvement since 2010, jumping 22% in winning percentage the last 2 seasons.
  • Howard has seen the greatest drop in winning percentage, 36.6%. But it would be hard to keep up the 78.6% he had from 2010/11 to 2013/14.
  • Laycock and McEwen have improved around 14% in winning percentage while Jacobs and Cotter have been flat.
  • Howard was 14-2 against Gushue between those Olympic years, but 1-5 since the beginng of last season.
  • McEwen has a winning record in all match-ups, except Howard (6-13 and 3-3 since 2014/15) and Simmons (8-13 and 2-3 against the true Simmons/Morris skipping duo).
  • Gushue is 14-13 against Jacobs since 2010/11 including 6-3 in the past 2 seasons.
  • McEwen is 7-2 against Jacobs since fall of 2014
  • Jacobs only has winning records against Howard (4-3) Laycock (4-2) and Cotter (5-1) recently. Howard had his number in the previous 3 years (13-4).
  • Laycock is 5-1 against Simmons, but that one loss was an extra end defeat in the 3 vs 4 playoff in last year's Brier. Pinnacle has Saskatchewan at +965 to win it all this year. Sounds tempting but that equates to nearly 10% and that sounds high. My gut tells me they may not be ready to win it all.
  • Cotter appears to be a huge long shot out of this bunch, but +2138 isn't high enough for me.
I'm not making any predictions. It's too damn hard. There are also too many stories to pull for; I can't even cheer for one team over another. Howard the old man miracle. Koe abdicates his throne as skip of Team Canada only to return two years later and reclaim it. Saskatchewan wins the Brier after a 36 year drought (no one mentions this enough). McEwen makes the first time a charm. Simmons 3-peats. Gushue finally comes through in his lucky 13th attempt.

If you can't be in Ottawa, enjoy the expanded TSN broadcasts and don't let Angus MacBreakAndEnter of Curling Canada make you feel guilty about not being there.

Until next time...

No comments:

Post a Comment