McEwen: Pool of Death? Masters men’s rundown

Mike McEwen (Photo: Anil Mungal)
October 21, 2014, 2:53 PM

With almost two months of World Curling Tour competitions in the books we have a decent early sampling of performance to weigh and analyze the men’s field for the first Grand Slam of the season. Remember that the top eight records of the entire field combined make the playoffs, so many or few may make it to the weekend out of each pool. Here I go … feel free to disagree!

Pool A

1) Brad Jacobs (19W – 5L)
6) Niklas Edin (23W – 12L)
7) Kevin Koe (16W – 4L)
12) Jim Cotter (6W – 3L)
13) Steve Laycock (20W – 11L)

The teams’ batting average in this pool are a combined 0.706 and two WCT titles — very strong. Team Koe and Olympic champions Team Jacobs are the odds-on favourites to come out of this pool. Team Jacobs did hit a stumbling block this past weekend at the Canad Inns Classic in Portage la Prairie, Man., but don’t expect them to stay down for very long.

Team Koe’s gelling process is progressing quickly, so the likely question to ask is how will Edin, Cotter, and Laycock fair? Edin and Laycock have played quite a bit more on the World Curling Tour than fellow competitor Cotter. From this you could argue Laycock has the slight edge due to recent results in events in Edmonton and Portage, but it’s not unreasonable to expect the unexpected in pool play here.

Pool B

2) Mike McEwen (21W – 1L)
5) John Morris (0W – 0L)
8) David Murdoch (16W – 8L)
11) Peter de Cruz (14W – 10L)
14) Sven Michel (17W – 13L)

Pool B’s winning percentage comes in slightly lower at 0.680 and three WCT titles, but could be slightly misleading as Team Morris has yet to compete this year. The Europeans also outnumber the Canadians in attendance three to two.

Not to jinx it, but I think I’m safe to give my team the nod as the favourite here — three titles on the WCT in three starts. However, I’ve been in similar situations before and what you did last weekend does not necessarily translate into the same said performance again. So, no games are to be taken lightly in Pool B.

Both Murdoch and De Cruz suffered defeats in their recent European qualification events (De Cruz at the hands of Switzerland rival Michel), but will have an event in Gatineau, Que., before the Masters to erase the sting of defeat. The big question is how will the Canadian champs look with Morris at the helm? First event of the season — will there be rust or rejuvenation? Status quo or more “mo-jo”?

Pool C “of Death”
3) Brad Gushue (13W – 7L)
4) Thomas Ulsrud (11W – 1L)
9) Glenn Howard (16W – 6L)
10) John Epping (24W – 12L)
15) Jeff Stoughton (15W – 7L)

Batting a combined 0.705 and one WCT title — extremely close to Pool A. Why did I aptly name this the “pool of death”? For starters, it is the one pool where its top-seeded team could be said not to be the favourite. But if Gushue isn’t then who is? I’m going to go with the safe pick — no one!

World champions Team Ulsrud has started off hot this season, but has only played two events and has yet to compete in Canada. Team Epping has been tremendously tough early on but has failed to qualify for the playoffs in their last two events. Howard and Stoughton have both showed they are just not going away — new/old player lineup changes for both these teams and early results have been positive with many playoff appearances. The same can be said about Team Gushue as they feature a new lineup, but the player is Gushue’s longtime third Mark Nichols rejoining the squad. So, who the heck do you pick here? I’m asking because I’m not picking!

Enjoy the onslaught — wonderful viewing pleasure! Get your tickets now by clicking here.