2016 (men’s) Canada Cup: Reid-ing is fundamental
(A note on headlines: I have never apologized for them and never will)
If I recall, last year there was a snafu getting TSN’s curling on ESPN3 in time for the Canada Cup. That or I just flat out missed it. Either way I had the luxury of more time watching this all-star event where the top teams in Canada just pummel each other in 10-end games for some really ritzy perks (in the curling, world, at least. No gold palaces…yet.)
For the men’s side, it’s a total logjam. When you have seven evenly-matched teams and they’re all in the top eight, you’re going to be shocked at who doesn’t make the three-team playoffs. In this case, the men’s side had two tiebreakers, so only Kevin Koe and Mike McEwen missed out on extra games.
For Koe, he was playing for pride (and money and points — he already had the Continental Cup and Olympic qualifier in his back pocket). As for McEwen, they just didn’t couldn’t get any big ends generated. By point differential, they were actually the third best team of the seven — even better than Mark Nichols, somehow.
Brad Jacobs had a terrific game-winner against McEwen in the first draw, but for the rest of the week he and his team looked completely frustrated and out of sync. I am not accustomed to seeing this team get outshot and giving up a five-ender to Steve Laycock in the tiebreak was just a death blow to their week. Of all the teams, this one feels most like a “professional athlete” team both physically and personality-wise. If they don’t get to Korea, this is just a gut feeling but I wouldn’t be surprised if they disbanded.
Steve Laycock continues to be Canada’s elite curling plus-one. Always invited, decent showing, but can’t seem to break through. They’ll get one eventually, but try to look surprised when they finally do. (That five-ender, though … man, I want to go back and figure out how they made that one happen.)
Since I was usually stuck with Briers and worlds from my American tee vee, I had basically known of John Epping only from linescores, but holy cats the man is an aggressive strategist. His semifinal against Reid Carruthers was played almost perfectly — one heavy draw put him in a 3–0 hole and eventually a 5–1 deficit, but he finished it up with a deuce then two steals to force Carruthers to win the game in the 11th. I really liked what I saw from him. He’s extremely watchable, and it just has to be his turn repping Ontario at the Brier, right? Right?
Team “Gushue” is finally getting the actual Brad Gushue back at their next event, but good lord was I impressed at Mark Nichols subbing in as skip. He didn’t have the skipping experience, but he’s always made all the shots and he clearly knew the drill. Sports are just weird sometimes. It would have been funny to see them earn a Trials spot without their namesake player, but if it’s all just the same I have decided they’ll get there by virtue of winning the Brier this year.
Which brings us to the champions, Reid Carruthers. You think of skips as just skips and that’s it, but Reid has now been an accomplished player at every position, and his very auto-mechanic-looking-like team snuck past nobody — they wrecked the competition. They get a ton of merit points, a trip to Las Vegas for the Continental Cup, and a Trials berth — something that I don’t think they’d have easily earned otherwise.
(Aside: for all the talk about “trials berths…” look, pretty much everyone here is going to be there next year. A couple might have to fight through the pre-qualifier but it’s been done before. Exhibit A: Brad Jacobs)