With the World Curling tour well underway for the 2015-2016 winter season, although like I was mentioning last time due to playing all the way in early September now, August curling events are surely forthcoming I thought it would be fun to predict which rink I anticipate as each province/territories representative for the 2016 Scotties held this year in the northernly Grande Prairie, Alberta. What I will do is enlist the entry I foresee coming out of each province whilst providing a brief snip it forecasting why I have come to this particular conclusion. At some point shortly as well, I plan to pen a similar entry pertaining to the Brier. Enjoy!
Team Canada-Jennifer Jones
Well, kind of an obvious selection here, no? A lock as this past year's champion, this Manitoba rink and 2014 Sochi Olympic gold medalists will undoubtedly come into the event as the favourite. A repeat winner wouldn't shock anybody.
The short but sweet Val Sweeting reign is over in Alberta. This Scheidegger rink is a small remnant of the former Renee Sonnnenberg rink who fared remarkably in the Roar of the Rings pre-qualifier can rely on third Cary-Anne McTaggart's experience playing a coveted event and ride it all the way winning a ridiculously difficult province.
British Columbia-Sarah Wark
Sarah Wark came awfully close to representing British Columbia in 2015 but a late implosion paved the way for Patti Knezevic to get through in a game I must unfortunately surmise was painful to watch. Retribution is definitely a thing and Wark can use that fire and desire from coming a draw away from qualifying in her last attempt to finally reaching the top of the mountain and representing B.C in a Western Canadian Scotties.
We've seen this song and dance plenty of times before with skips who've just completed successful junior careers in making seamless transitions to the women's game. Rachel Homan is the most obvious example but rinks like the Van Osch foursome a couple of years ago, to a circa 2001 Suzanne Birt(Gaudet) accomplishing these feats. It won't be easy as Manitoba has stiff competition but Birchard's background playing in the big game as she once was a finalist at the Canadian juniors will pay off.
New Brunswick-Sylvie Robichaud
This Moncton based quartet earned valuable experience playing in last years championship as the ladies division is no longer cast under the Andrea Crawford shadow and I expect we'll see Robichaud represent this province once again. They were competitive with both Jennifer Jones and Rachel Homan last go around so I wouldn't expect anything but a aquad who'll give the page playoffs a scare.
Newfoundland and Labrador-Heather Strong
A province that is looking for that curling staple like they have on the men's side with Brad Gushue. Before you go all banana's with my previous statement, I do understand that Strong has been a constant representative of a province I desperately want to visit some day but there's a difference between just being there and obstructing damage on the field. Gushie's been competitive and Newfoundland and Labrador curling has not seen desirable results since the days of Cathy Cunningham. This needs to change.
Northern Ontario-Tracy Fleury
I'm not here to discount the skillset of the Kendra Lilly rink but the Northern Ontario curling scene will be owned by Fleury(formerly Horgan) for quite some time. In fact, I will even not so boldly venture to say that this rink is currently one of the best teams in the world and as a general statement don't have a lot of recognizability within the curling community but that will quickly change as the 2015-2016 continues to evolve.
Nova Scotia-Mary-Anne Arsenault
Mary-Anne Arsenault had a great run at the Moose Jaw Scotties. I was impressed because for the first time since her inclusion on the Colleen Jones dynasty and this is including the reincarnation of that short lived Jones/Arsenault reunion which cultivated into one Scotties appearance, I saw a drive in her and a impression that she wanted this. Curling's not a sport that shells out big dollars and when you have the kind of staggering success that Mary-Anne did, complacency can set in but judging from her work last year those days are comfortably behind her.
I'd love to pick someone aside from Rachel here with this pick because as you'd already be well aware if you're a loyal reader of this enterprise, I have no issue with being bold but even I can't justify not going with team Homan. The work and commitment all four ladies put in to the on ice training and off ice fitness is unparalleled and essentially on the women's side they're changing the rules for youngens out there that aspire to stay competitive.
Prince Edward Island-Suzanne Birt
If you think I'm giving off the impression that I'm just repeating the 2015 representatives you wouldn't be far off. The brass tacks are that in some of these provinces the depth simply isn't there and this runs particularly true in Prince Edward Island. I like the fact that Birt teamed up with young phenom Meghan Hughes as stockpiling the best curlers from your province on the same team is never a bad idea. Maybe Suzanne will read this and appreciate me buttering her unit up and donate a little of her recent lottery splurge my way? One can hope!
A provincial win by Perron may challenge current Pittsburgh Penguins forward as the most popular Canadian athlete with the surname Perron. Perron has a great opportunity as perennial favourite Marie-France Larouche's play has fallen off in recent years and I'm not convinced that Lauren Mann's rink features the consistency to pull off a Quebecois double.
Changes galore took place pertaining to roster movement in Saskatchewan and one of the few rinks that stayed in tact was the Chantelle Eberle foursome. The old adage in sports that it takes teams, particularly newly formed ones in curling a while to mesh as broom placement is 80% of the game and a rink like Eberle who has that familiarity in spades might crack through an opening and take home the 2015 provincial title.
Northwest Territories-Kerry Galusha
Kerry, who is the sister of Kevin and Jamie Koe can use those curling bloodlines to her advantage and has done so many times before. The competition in the Territories is virtually non-existent, I give Kerry Galusha better odds getting back to Grande Prairie then I would the picking the over of 9.5 wins for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Conceivably you would think that a bunch of twenty one/twenty two year olds would have no hope entering the event with a myriad of polished veterans. Not quite the case with Koltun. She's been in a million Canadian Junior events which I would imagine raises the confidence level a percentage more each time you play one combined with the fact, similarly to the Northwest Territories there is no feasible foe. Write the Koltun line up card into the Scotties program with ink. An inevitability.