2016 (women’s) Canada Cup: Jennifer Jones now and forever and probably after that too
In my mind there are basically two grups of elite Canadian women’s curling teams: Jennifer Jones/Rachel Homan, and “other.” Allison Flaxey is having a terrific season and is the #1 team going by this season, and while she didn’t get the invite, nuke all other teams except her, Jones, and Homan, and Homan and Jones have winning records. That’s who was left after the dust settled, and Jones took it a step further and really overwhelmed the Homan team, something nobody really does to them, let alone twice in a week.
Starting with those that missed the playoffs, Kelsey Rocque and Tracy Fleury were not huge surprises — they’re still getting their footing into this level. Rocque is a team to watch out of the Alberta provincials and Fleury is surprising some people nationally out of Northern Ontario, but they’re not at the top five level yet.
The other team is a different story. Chelsea Carey is Team Canada, for chrissakes, but they’ve had a brutal year. After an opening WCT title in Japan, they’ve had seven countryside events, reaching just playoffs twice and no semifinals. On YTD points, they’re fifth in their province. Fifth. Good thing for that Scotties autoberth.
Then there’s Val Sweeting, a player that has made a name for herself with clutch shot after clutch shot, and being lefthanded has basically become the sport’s David Ortiz. But luck befell the team as, up a point in the 10th without hammer, Dana Ferguson slipped and burned her first skip stone, leading to giving up a three-spot. So it’s a bit of a shock to not see her make a slam final. Good week, but not enough.
It wasn’t just one burned stone that put Kerri Einarson into a third place finish at the Canada Cup, nor was it the three-game string of losses, but they did win when it mattered, including early on against Rachel Homan, before ultimately getting bested by them in the semis. The weird news is that this was their first playoff of the year, in eight tries. Heck of a time to finally put it all together, but they’re still going to need more to beat the likes of Jennifer Jones in Manitoba in January.
Rachel Homan looks, plays and feels like the heir apparent to Jennifer Jones’ reign of dominance. Their team is a well-oiled machine with everyone making a good argument to be the best player at their position. And it’s not that they just can’t beat Jones — they have, including an 8–0 rout this season. Maybe their two losses against Jones will embolden them to play that much better in the next rematch, whenever that is. And maybe they would have won the Canada Cup had it not been for that incredible steal of four in the final, in which Homan had nothing but an assortment of circus shots to try. I remain terrified on behalf of everyone who has to play them moving forward.
But while Jennifer Jones might be trailing Homan by over 100 points on the OOM chart, pound for pound they’re still the best team around. The Order of Merit has a memory span of two years, and Jones’ is over a dozen years at this level. Now they had already wrapped up their Trials berth (as did Homan), so someone else on the CTRS rankings is going to take this spot, which means the benefactor of the Canada Cup is probably … Allison Flaxey. And it all comes back to her, who didn’t get the invite, but probably gets a Trials berth out of it. Sports, man.