This is a pivotal year in curling.
The 2016/17 season officially starts the Olympic cycle! This will be the first season for teams to earn qualification points and direct entry berths into the Olympic Trials and/or Pre-Trials events. This is what dreams are made of and teams need to be ready. If a team has a horrible season in year one of the cycle, it can be almost impossible to regroup and keep your Olympic dreams alive heading into year two.
We have already seen many notable off-season changes…
- All three men’s teams saw off-season lineup changes as did Team Lawton and Team Wrana.
- Of course the biggest off-season announcements involved ex-teammates Pat Simmons and John Morris. Simmons decided to stay in Alberta in a slightly shocking announcement and join forces with Team Bottcher. Morris made a less surprising move to re-join old teammates Team Cotter in B.C. Time will tell whether either or both or neither of these moves pays off in the long-run. My guess is one pays off quite well while the other fizzles out after one season. I will leave it to all of you to guess which is which!
- Team Edin’s lineup change due to second Kristian Lindstroem’s shoulder injury could be interesting to watch…how will Rasmus Wrana fit in with the team as the regular second and will they need an adjustment period. Of course, depending on Lindstroem’s recovery time, this adjustment could be short-term as well.
- Teams Howard, Kean, Gunnlaugson and Comeau could be interesting to watch as well. The women’s tour will also see some big changes. Team Lawton and Team Anderson (former teammates) have solidified their new teams.
- Former Saskatchewan Lawton/Anderson rival Michelle Englot moves over to Manitoba to lead former Team McDonald now that past skip Kristy McDonald has decided to retire.
- Speaking of retiring, World Junior Champ skip Mary Fay hung up her shoes (for schooling, a very admirable and much respected decision btw) and her old team will now be skipped by former competitor Kristin Clarke.
- The Kaufman sisters will reunite as one team in Alberta, Eve Belisle takes over as skip of Lauren Mann’s team in Quebec (Mann moves to vice) and Erin Carmody heads back to Atlantic Canada to join Jill Brothers as vice in Nova Scotia.
- International teams will see some change as well with Team Muirhead bringing Lauren Gray on as lead (replacing Sarah Reid), Cissi Ostlund coming in as fourth on Swedish powerhouse Team Sigfridsson and former New Brunswick champ Andrea Crawford joining forces with two-time world champion Andrea Schoepp in Germany.
LOTS of change….but which moves will pay off for which teams will be the under-story of the 2016/17 season. For the full team tracker, visit HERE!