McEwen: Players’ changing landscape

April 14, 2014, 1:46 PM

For me, this time of year is always intriguing — varying degrees of burnout affecting teams and the challenges of dealing with as I’ve eluded to in previous blogs. Who handles it best and who looks re-invigorated often become Players’ champions.

However, this is an extra special edition of the Players’ Championship — one that is framed by the conclusion of a four-year Olympic cycle. This spring’s evolving curling landscape is characterized by a myriad of brushstrokes from differing hands. The resulting canvas can be especially pleasing to the viewer’s eye in its splendid chaos. Yes, it’s that much more enticing for the sports enthusiast to engage.

Let’s begin with viewing a few of the important pieces making up a collage of intersecting stories — some ending and many just beginning:

MEN’S DIVISION

Team Martin: Is Kevin Martin retiring? Will Dave Nedohin hang them up again? It’s well known that Martin’s front-end of Ben Hebert and Marc Kennedy made a move to secure their future by aligning themselves with Kevin Koe starting next fall. Martin and Nedohin can certainly write their own ending if they should so choose to, but I have a feeling it’s already written and just a matter of a proof read.

Team Stoughton: Officially announced the disbandment of their team and reports suggested they were all heading in separate directions. Yet to be confirmed is just where everyone is going. Hold on though, you can update a couple of new rosters as announcements rolled out this past Sunday! Jeff Stoughton’s second, Reid Carruthers, will be skipping his own squad. Joining Team Carruthers will be Braeden Moskowy (formerly Team Virtue), Derek Samagalski (from Team Fowler), and Colin Hodgson (Team Thomas). The same day had third Jon Mead heading east to Ontario’s new Team Howard creation. With this and perhaps more news to come regarding the remaining Team Stoughton members, it’s still not entirely apparent whether this is the last we’ve seen of Jeff. However, his public statements have mentioned the man is not looking to be done just yet.

Team Howard: During the final of The Syncrude National, we heard directly from Glenn Howard that the team would not be returning in its current form. Howard looked amazingly focused and fiery during that final (which they won). Sure enough, soon after it was confirmed that second Brent Laing had made the decision to depart for the new Team Koe. Howard didn’t look finished at all though and as indicated above made plans to come back with a redesigned lineup. Coaxing friend and former longtime teammate Richard Hart out of early retirement and recruiting Jon Mead from Team Stoughton into the fold — could the new Team Howard be any more formidable? Yikes!

Team Koe: We’re looking at a name change here, folks. As mentioned above, Kevin Koe announced he will be taking the reigns of a brand new team and simultaneously giving up the first ever Team Canada title defence in men’s national history. Recently, media has reported that the remaining three team members (Nolan Thiessen, Carter Rycroft, Pat Simmons) will continue on and confirm a replacement for their departed skip. Rycroft, who had publicly announced that he would be stepping back from the game, will still do that but play the minimum amount of events for the team to keep their Team Canada designation. Stay tuned for news about this reconfiguring foursome, as they will don the red and white at the Brier in Calgary next March.

Team Gushue: With the imploding Stoughton team releasing Mark Nichols there has been some chatter on whether this fine rock chucker would end up with his former skip. Still waiting for word if this team is standing pat.

Team McEwen: There’s been a fair bit of speculation on whether or not we would survive the musical chair movement. I can confirm we did, but not without some heavy reflection. We’ll be ready and rejuvenated to continue the battle into next season.

WOMEN’S DIVISION

Team Jones: Will these ladies keep us hanging any longer? Kidding aside, I’m going to make a reasonable assumption that this team has too much drive, determination, and enjoyment to mail anything in just yet. The question is how long will they go or do they even know? Surely an announcement is coming soon.

Team Homan/Team Sweeting: A bit of a steal happened here! It’s too bad there’s not an early match between these two teams, but they are not in the same pool — maybe playoffs? From quotes in the media, Val Sweeting appeared shocked that her third Joanne Courtney left for “greener” pastures. Team Homan scooped her up as they lost a valuable player in second Allison Keviazuk as she is headed to Sweden with boyfriend Fredrik Lindberg (Team Edin).

Team Nedohin: This could be the last time we see this former Canadian championship team play together. Third Beth Iskiw will not be competing next year. It has been confirmed that Amy Nixon will be sliding into Iskiw’s role next season.

Team Webster: Almost a complete re-tooling of Crystal Webster’s team is underway except for second Geri-Lynn Ramsay who will stay on at that position. Will this be the conclusion for storied third Cathy Overton-Clapham?

So, with the above fresh in mind let’s have a look at my must-see round-robin games where several of these stories collide:

Wednesday, April 16 — 1:00 PM AT: Howard vs. Martin

- The epic finale of clashes between a couple of the all-time greats? Not to mention two of Martin’s players are teaming up with one of Howard’s next fall. Future teammates playing each other — Laing versus Hebert/Kennedy.

Thursday, April 17 — 1:00 PM AT: McEwen vs. Stoughton

- The heavyweights in Manitoba. Will this be the last of the rivalry?

Thursday, April 17 — 1:00 PM AT: Homan vs. Muirhead

- Two of the best (and youngest) combat again. It’s Canada versus Scotland and another one in a potential long running list to come.

Thursday, April 17 – 5:00 PM AT: Edin vs. Jacobs

- Rematch of the 2013 World Men’s Championship and an anticipated 2014 Olympic final after round-robin results that never materialized.

Thursday, April 17 – 8:30 PM AT: Jones vs. Sigfridsson

- 2014 Olympic final redux … need I say more?

Friday, April 18 – 1:00 PM AT: Koe vs. Howard

- A skip that will be leaving his current team and capturing Howard’s second to go with him. Koe versus Laing.

Friday, April 18 – 4:30 PM AT: Koe vs. Martin

- Another next season teammates having a head-to-head battle before joining forces. Koe versus Hebert/Kennedy.

Thus, with just the circumstances I outlined there’s no doubt that a few of these along with many other amazing game choices will grace the live Sportsnet broadcast. Otherwise, the only way to see the entirety of the unfolding drama is to come and enjoy it live at the Credit Union Place in Summerside, P.E.I.

Plus, don’t forget to hit the Grand Slam Social House after the games to enjoy live entertainment, catch many of these athletes in person, and maybe grab some time with one of the newly crowned Olympic medallists in attendance. Curling fans, enjoy the viewing experience!

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