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Friday, 14 October 2016

#BetweenTheSheets: Season Of The Dark Horse?
Casey Scheidegger becoming the giant killer

What a season already for Alberta's Casey Scheidegger!  Team Scheidegger has moved from a dark horse team to watch out for to UNDEFEATED ON TOUR!!  Yes, you are reading that correctly curling fans.  Scheidegger entered two of the strongest fields on tour in the early part of this season and has walked away with two consecutive tournament championships.  A few weeks ago Scheidegger upset Eve Muirhead in a championship final.  This past week, Scheidegger took down 2014 Olympic Champion Jennifer Jones in another championship final.  Yes, #TeamWorld has been dominating overall this season.  And yes, Team Hasselborg has been playing consistent top notch curling week in and week out BUT Scheidegger is the only team to win both events entered...and beating world class competition.  With Team Carey having the auto berth to The Scotties this year as Team Canada, everyone assumed Team Sweeting would have an easy road to the Alberta Scotties.  Not. So. Fast!  Watch out Sweeting and Alberta, Scheidegger seems to be the front runner for a Scotties berth right now.

Dark horse teams could quickly become a theme for the season as well if we continue to see more "upsets" week after week.  Scheidegger is a great example but not the only dark horse team to pull out a strong weekend result.  Kyle Smith, Tyler Tardi, Glen Hansen and Chang-Min Kim are great examples of men's tour champions this season who probably would not have been expected to hold the massive cheque at the end of an event.  Besides Scheidegger, Marla Mallett, Nadine Chyz and the return of Bingyu Wang would be strong dark horse contending women's teams who have also found the winner's circle at the end of an event.  Who will be the next big dark horse to shock the curling world with a tournament win?  We could see one or two occur this weekend...but more on that below.

Scheidegger's big win wasn't the only headline from last weekend's very busy tour schedule.  Bring on the #GunnerRunback from Week 8:

  • Team Gushue returned to the top of the podium (AGAIN!) at the Stu Sells Toronto Tankard.  Even without skipper Brad Gushue in the house, Team Gushue, being led by vice Mark Nichols, continues to be the hot team on tour.  Gushue defeated a hot shooting John Epping in the final.  Strong international results for last year's men's world's runner-up Rasmus Stjerne and "Team October" Chang-Min Kim in reaching the SF.  On the women's side, Sherry Middaugh had a little pre-birthday celebration of her own in winning back-to-back events defeating Cathy Auld in the final.  Hollie Nichol surprised many with a strong SF finish as did former Canadian and World Champion Many-Anne Arsenualt.
  • The Womens Masters Basel in Basel, SUI became the perfect rebound event for Eve Muirhead.  After failing to qualify in Stockholm, Muirhead wouldn't be disappointed two weeks in a row.  Plus, after starting the season with back-to-back runner-up finishes, the monkey is off the back for the team this season in finally picking up a tour win.  The Swedish invasion continued as well...this time with Team Sigfridsson reaching the final.  Surprise SF appearances from EunJung Kim and Hannah Fleming continue the dark horse trend of the season.  Also, welcome back two-time world champ Andrea Schoepp from Germany in reaching the QF.
  • In Edmonton, Steve Laycock put together a perfect weekend of curling action in claiming the Direct Horizontal Drilling Fall Classic.  Team Laycock went 6-0 on the weekend, including victories over Jason Gunnlaugson (QF), John Morris (SF) and Reid Carruthers (F).  A great result for Team Carruthers though who had struggled in their last event but rebounded nicely last week.  Team Morris and Team Koe did well also in reaching the SF.
  • At the St. Paul Cash Spiel in St. Paul, MN the newly formed Team Heath McCormick continues to look like the early Team USA favourite in claiming the title over Team Brown.  Team McCormick has qualified in 3 of their 4 events, previously reaching the SF and F before claiming their first title of the year last weekend.  Colin Koivula and Todd Birr reached the SF.  The young up and coming Cory Christensen defended her 2015 title on the women's side.  Christensen defeated Nina Roth in the championship final and put her fellow American women teams on notice they are the team to beat this year...and have the inside early track on the Team USA women's worlds spot.  Jessica Schultz and Jamie Sinclair are right behind the top two teams though after strong SF appearances.
  • Winnipeg's Man Curl Tour Classic was the crowning of the next wave of Manitoba men's teams when former two-time junior champion Braden Calvert picked up his first ever world curling tour championship.  The excitement around Team Calvert and what they would do on tour this season has been huge and this was a massive win for them.  Watch out Manitoba teams...this junior team is ready to take on the top men's teams.  Calvert defeated Richard Muntain in the championship final.  Daley Peters and Trevor Loreth also had strong weekend results with SF appearances.

Lots of action last weekend on ice all over the world.  But did the results cause a shake-up in the #PowerRankings? Can the Gushue win move them back to the top of the mountain?  Did the Muirhead win move them back up the rankings?  And can Laycock return to the Top 5 after falling off the mountain all together in the past few weeks?  Let's answer those questions...and probably ask a few more....


1.  Team Gushue (LW: 2)
2.  Team Edin (1)
3.  Team Koe (3)
4.  Team Jacobs (5)
5.  Team Laycock (NR)

Hon. Mention:  Team Ulsrud, Team Epping, Team Morris, Team Carruthers


1.  Team Hasselborg (LW: 1)
2.  Team Homan (2)
3.  Team Muirhead (4)
4.  Team Scheidegger (NR)
5.  Team J, Jones (HM)

Hon. Mention:  Team Tirinzoni, Team Sigfridsson, Team Sidorova, Team Sweeting

Team Gushue hits the ice and wins again....so #TwineTime cannot help but move them back to the top of the rankings after a one week drop to #2.  I guess the slight slip from the top was motivation enough for the boys from the Rock last week.  We also welcome back Team Laycock to the #PowerRankings.  After a successful win in Edmonton, #TeamOranje skyrockets up the rankings to the coveted #5 spot this week.  The push for the top is starting to get tight though as Teams Ulsrud, Epping and Morris continue to have strong starts to their seasons.  But don't get too comfortable gentlemen as Teams Bottcher, Carruthers and McCormick are also starting to make a move.

The women's top two remains the same.  Ok sure Hasselborg had a rough weekend in Basel but they have been played many events this season with amazing results, one slip up is bound to happen every now and then.  We will chalk this up to a one off...for now!  Team Muirhead's win in Basel though does move them back up the rankings to #3.  And of course we not only welcomed back Jennifer Jones to the ice last weekend but back into the Top 5 after their finals appearance in Calgary.  Here comes Team Scheidegger though..making their season debut on the rankings at #4.  #TwineTime cannot ignore the incredible run this team is on right now...and they are undefeated!  The international women's teams have still been the more consistent though so it will be interesting to see if the #TeamWorld theme can keep trending to the top of the rankings, especially as we inch closer to the start of the grand slam season.

#TwineTime continued to find success with the #TourLifePredictions last week with Team McCormick and Team Middaugh picking up predicted tournament victories.  I did call Gushue reaching the final...my bad for betting against them though.  Team Roth also reached the final in St. Paul but came up short in the end.  Outside of predicting the winners and finalists, I went a perfect 6 for 6 on the women's side in St. Paul and 5 of 8 in Calgary.  For the men's events, 7 of 8 at Stu Sells Toronto, 6 of 8 in Edmonton and 5 of 8 in Winnipeg show above average predictions.

This upcoming week will see 4 men's events and 3 women's events on tour.  ALSO, this weekend begins our path to crowning our first World Champion of the curling season...the World Mixed Curling Championships get underway in Kazan, Russia.


World Mixed Curling Championship

Kazan, Russia

2015 Champion:  Norway

Format:  37 nation round robin with 2 pools of 7 nations and 3 pools of 6 nations.  Top 16 nations qualify for the playoffs.

Top Nations Entered:  Norway, Sweden, Russia, Canada, Hungary, Germany

Dark Horse:  The perfect dark horse nations are the one's competing for the very first time in the competition.  Welcome Andorra, Croatia, South Korea and Netherlands to the world mixed curling stage.  South Korea has been a consistent competitor in men's and women's curling for a few years now and Netherlands is starting to make a rise on the men's tour.  I am really excited to see non-traditional nations Andorra and Croatia compete though.  Let's hope this will become a #growthesport moment for both nations moving forward!

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4):  This is a fairly wide open world championship to be honest.  This is also only the second year of this event so it is still a bit tough for many nations, especially developing curling nations, to make a move up the rankings for a podium push.  Traditional curling superpower nations like Canada, Norway, Sweden, USA, Germany and Switzerland should once again comfortably qualify.  The interesting note with this year's event however is the "lack" of big names representing their nations.  Last year we saw more well-known names to the curling tour compete, like Rasmus Wrana (SWE), Jolene Campbell (CAN), Andy Kapp (GER), Yannick Schwaller (SUI) and Brady Clark (USA).  This year Kapp will return to skip Team Germany, Mick Lizmore will skip Team Canada, Kristian Lindsstroem leading Team Sweden and Michelle Jaeggi and Romano Meier forming the front end for Switzerland.  For the majority of those competing, this will be their first time competing on the big ice with a major title (or world championship) up for grabs.  Don't get me wrong though, as a strong #growthesport supporter, this is also VERY exciting for curling fans.  It will be exciting to see which nation, and which players, will step up and seize this moment!

Qualifiers:  Norway, Scotland, Sweden, Hungary, Russia, Australia, Czech Republic, Canada, Latvia, Germany, Switzerland, Estonia, Turkey, Italy, Denmark, France

Championship:  Canada (Mick Lizmore) def. Russia (Alexander Krushelnitskiy)


Canad Inns Men's Classic

Portage la Prairie, MB

2015 Champion:  Steve Laycock

Format:  32 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Koe, Team Jacobs, Team Morris, Team Laycock, Team Shuster, Team Stjerne, Team McEwen, Team Bottcher, Team Carruthers

Dark Horse:  See the entire bracket!  Yes there are many top teams entered in this prestige event but don't just assume those top ranked teams will find a free pass to the playoffs.  There are numerous dark horse teams in this field that could surprise.  Braden Calvert is coming off his first career tour win last week.  Korea's Chang-Min Kim has been on fire this entire month, winning events and reaching finals and qualifying when many would not have expected him to.  Team Peters and Team Lyburn are always threats, especially playing on home province soil.  Neighbouring province Saskatchewan also fields a few dark horse teams like Team Meachem, Team Korte and Team Ackerman.  And a previous #TwineTime dark horse mention, Switzerland's Michael Brunner, could surprise as well here.  Don't overlook a #TwineTime family member either as Mark Kean and his slightly altered new team could surprise this weekend.

W2W4:  Another week on tour and another stacked men's field to pay close attention to.  All the big names are here plus many dangerous floating teams like Gunnlaugson, Thomas and Dunstone.  This is going to be a tough bracket to navigate through for any team, not just those top entered teams listed above.  Keep an eye on Team McEwen though.  This team is struggling...and hard!  For a team curling fans are used to seeing on the weekend's sporting the #redpants, those fire pants sure have been collecting some dust this season.  This team is in a slump and up against a field with many teams hitting their season stride already.  McEwen probably needs to qualify here more than anyone, if only for the mental stability of the team.  Whatever they have been planning and working on up to now has not worked at all...time to switch gears.  It's way too early to pull the pin on the season...but given the results this team has had the past few years, it is getting close!  Plus they have won this tournament 4 of the past 6 years so if there was ever an event in their favour to turn around the season, this would be the one.

Qualifiers:  Team Koe, Team Jacobs, Team Morris, Team Laycock, Team Bottcher, Team McEwen, Team Carruthers, Team Gunnlaugson

Championship:  Team Koe def. Team Jacobs

Hub International Crown of Curling

Kamloops, B.C.

2015 Champion:  Sean Geall

Format:  14 team triple knockout with 6 qualifiers.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Clark, Team Joanisse, Team Tardi

Dark Horse:  Well Team Schneider certainly is putting together quite the season aren't they?  Stephen Schneider and company have played in two events this season and reached the SF both times.  They are the epitome of a dark horse team or a fly under the radar type of team.  In both of those events there were higher ranked and perhaps more well-known teams competing yet Team Schneider went about their business and reached the Final 4.  If they can continue this streak this weekend perhaps we move them off the dark horse contender list and into the watch out for list.  Interesting side note, skip Stephen Schneider is also a 3-time Canadian Gay National Curling Champion.  This guy knows his curling and has national championship titles to show for it.

W2W4:  Brady Clark and his Seattle, Washington team will make the short trip across the border to compete this weekend and should be considered a favourite to take home the title.  Team Clark has a SF appearance to their resume already this season and will come to Kamloops fresh off a QF finish in St. Paul.  This field is stacked with strong B.C. teams but it could end up being another #TeamWorld victory come Sunday.

Qualifiers:  Team S. Kim, Team Clark, Team Joanisse, Team Schneider, Team Tardi, Team Bilesky

Championship:  Team Clark def. Team Joanisse

Stroud Sleeman Cash Spiel

Stroud, ON

2015 Champion:  Codey Maus

Format:  20 team round robin with 4 pools of 5 teams.  Top 8 qualify.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Horgan

Dark Horse:  See below?  Ok being serious, Team Horgan has to still be considered a bit of a dark horse team when entering men's tour events.  This is their first real season on tour so competing against the so-called big boys on tour can still be a bit daunting.  Having said that, their results certainly speak for themselves early on in the season.  They have qualified in two of their three events, including reaching the final of the Tier II event at the Stu Sells Oakville.  The Northern Ontario team could start channeling similar strong results from fellow junior-esque teams like Manitoba's Team Calvert and B.C.'s Team Tardi and claim their first career tour victory this weekend.  Like I said at the beginning of this blog post, could this become the Season of the Dark Horse?

W2W4:  This is a wide open event but not in the same way the women's field is wide open (more on that below).  Many of the higher ranked Ontario men's teams are not competing at this event, choosing to compete elsewhere on tour this weekend or taking the weekend off.  While this creates a bit of a disadvantage for the teams who will compete in Stroud because their rankings points will suffer a bit due to Strength of Schedule (ugh...holding back from my rant again on this factor for world ranking), this could create an opportunity for the teams competing as well.  Many of these teams would be considered dark horse contenders for Ontario Tankard berths so a strong weekend could help build some momentum and confidence heading into the winter portion of the season.  This is a tough field to call as there are many teams who could pull out this title.  Which team can jump through an open door first here?

Qualifiers:  Team Deruelle, Team Corbett, Team Heggestad, Team Horgan, Team Gardner, Team Duhaime, Team Dow, Team Ross

Championship:  Team Horgan def. Team Heggestad

McKee Homes Fall Curling Classic

Airdrie, AB

2015 Champion:  Aaron Sluchinski

Format:16 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Sluchinski, Team Hansen

Dark Horse:  This event has a few up and coming young teams entered who will be looking to get their sliders wet competing with some of the more experienced teams.  Jeremy Harty and Kyler Kleibrink will both be skipping their teams with the hope of pulling a few upsets along the bracket and playing into the weekend.  Team Harty has only played one event so far but they did reach the QF in Edmonton and they did reach the QF here last season.  Team Kleibrink also reached the QF here last season and did start their season with a respectable 2-3 finish in Saskatoon at the end of September.  Both teams are very capable of qualifying here once again.

W2W4:  Can Aaron Sluchinski pull of the #3peat?  This year's event will be the 4th edition and Sluchinski has won the past two.  Sluchinski struggled last weekend in Edmonton going 0-3 to start off their season.  However Airdrie is the home city and this is their home ice so you have to think they will turn things around quick and forget all about last weekend.  Interestingly enough, the only other player to win this event is Matthew Blandford, who took home the inaugural event back in 2013.  And Blandford just happens to be entered into the event this weekend to start the season with his newly formed team.  As you may remember Blandford had an up and down season last year curling with Brock Virtue then returning to skip his own team for a bit and then joining forced with Team Smallwood in Yukon to try and make a Brier run.  Blandford is back in the house though, reconnecting with former teammates Darren Moulding and Brent Hamilton and adding Bert Martin at lead.  The talent is there for a good run this weekend but will the lack of on ice competition so far this year hurt them early on against teams playing their second or third event already?  Of course, #TwineTime is always a proud supporter of Matt, a mamber of the #TwineTime family remember!

Qualifiers:  Team Sluchinski, Team Hansen, Team Blandford, Team Yablonski, Team White, Team Harty, Team Jantzen, Team Usselman

Championship:  Team Hansen def. Team Blandford


Hub International Crown of Curling

Kamloops, B.C.

2015 Champion:  Un-Chi Gim

Format:  20 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Sigfridsson, Team Fujisawa, Team Gim, Team Mallett, Team Gushulak

Dark Horse:  B.C.'s Karla Thompson could surprise many of the top international teams competing this weekend.  Team Thompson is having a great season already, reaching the SF in both of their events.  Thompson is the defending B.C. Scotties champion as well remember and would love nothing more than to get back to the national championship.  With the resurgence of Team Mallett and Team Gushulak already this season, Team Thompson will need to continue putting up strong, consistent results if she does want to keep that provincial title.

W2W4:  #TeamWorld vs. #TeamCanada will be front and centre this weekend in Kamloops.  Of the 20 teams entered, 9 of them are international.  Led by defending champion Un-Chi Gim of Korea and Japan's Team Fujisawa, the opportunity for another Team World win on tour could happen.  However, perhaps the biggest international threat will once again come from Sweden and Team Sigfidsson.  Last season was disappointing for this team but the off-season shake up and addition of Cissi Ostlund throwing 4th stones seems to be working really well.  Team Sigfridsson comes ready to compete after reaching the finals in Basel too.  Don't cross out Team Canada yet though as Team Mallett and Team Gushulak will look to both win their second tour events of the season on home province ice.

Qualifiers:  Team Sigfridsson, Team Fujisawa, Team Thompson, Team Gim, Team Mallett, Team Gushulak, Team Brown, Team Barbezat

Championship:  Team Sigfridsson def. Team Fujisawa

Stroud Sleeman Cash Spiel

Stroud, ON

2015 Champion:  Julie Tippin

Format:  12 team round robin with 2 pools of 6 teams.  Top 6 qualify.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Auld, Team Tippin, Team Hastings, Team Harrison

Dark Horse:  There is something about Heather Heggestad and her team that makes me think this could be their big breakthrough event.  They do already have a SF finish at the Stu Sells event in Oakville but this weekend could see them go one round further...perhaps even take home the title.  Heggestad did win this event back in 2013 so she has had previous success on this ice.  Also, looking at the draw, her pool is more manageable for her to make a deep run than if she was in the other, more competitive pool vs. the likes of Auld, Tippin, Cadorin and Hastings.

W2W4:  Another Ontario event and another opportunity for top Ontario women's teams to stake their claim to the becoming the Homan challenger for the season.  Ontario women's curling should not be considered a one-trick pony right now by any means.  Just look at the teams competing in Stroud and look at the results they have put up already this season in previous tour events.  Team Auld and Team Tippin have looked strong week in and week out.  Team Cadorin started the season strong and will be looking to build more momentum.  And we already know how strong Team Hastings (skipper Julie Hastings is also a proud member of the #TwineTime family) and Team Harrison are.  Oh and here comes Team Balsdon as well.  This should be fun to see where the rocks stop by Sunday.

Qualifiers:  Team Balsdon, Team Harrison, Team Heggestad, Team Auld, Team Tippin, Team Hastings

Championship:  Team Tippin def. Team Auld

Atkins Curling Supplies Classic 

Winnipeg, MB

2015 Champion:  Darcy Robertson

Format:  21 team round robin with 3 pools of 4 teams and 1 pool of 5 teams.  Top 8 qualify.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Sinclair, Team Meilleur, Team Brown

Dark Horse:  Lisa Menard's team currently sits just within the Top 60 of the world rankings and is a team that has struggled to qualify for events in the past.  However, they did reach the final of their last event of the season last year and they did reach the SF of their first event of the season this year.  Both are positive results and steps in the right direction.  Menard could surprise a few teams ranked above her but also has a favourable draw playing a few teams ranked many spots below her.  If she can win the games she should win in the round robin, that alone should carry them into the playoffs.  Once there, anything can happen!

W2W4:  This event may feel like an all Manitoba affair but it just could be a team south of the border who takes home the title.  USA's Jamie Sinclair has been touted the past few years as the future of USA women's curling.  Last season started strong with many qualification results but, as the season played on, Team Sinclair's high level of play dropped off.  This season, Sinclair once again started strong reaching the SF in her first event but then saw back-to-back disappointing finishes before the SF appearance last weekend in St. Paul.  Consistency and momentum are two issues plaguing this team.  They already saw Team Christensen and Team Roth pass them.  If they want to keep pace, a strong result here is needed!

Qualifiers:  Team Brown, Team Smith, Team Robertson, Team Kilgallen, Team Menard, Team Spencer, Team Sinclair, Team Meilleur

Championship:  Team Meilleur def. Team Menard

Time is slipping...slipping....almost going right through the house like a rock on fire....for YOUR chance to have YOUR say on which Grand Slam of Curling event YOU like best.  Head over to the #TwineTime Home Page and vote NOW!!  I want to crown the #GSOC Fan Choice Award!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

#BetweenTheBoards: Hockey, Hockey, Hockey
The Survivor Series of an NHL season hits the ice

Yay hockey is back....and all of Canada rejoices.  The hockey sweaters come out of the closet.  The Budweiser goal-synced glasses are ready to light up coffee tables around the country.  And hockey hair will once again become a thing.  Yes, #TwineTime will be engaging in all three of these rituals throughout the season...deal with it!

Last season this very blog tried to take a different perspective for the season preview, using a WWE-themed Royal Rumble idea.  I thought it was something creative and fun, plus I am a sucker for 1980's/90's WWF pay-per-views.  Theme or no theme though, I did predict the Pittsburgh Penguins reaching the Stanley Cup final.  I also predicted them playing a California-based team in the final...ok I choose Anaheim over San Jose...but still pretty good pre-season predictions I would say!

This season I am keeping the WWF/E-theme but switching up the pay-per-view.  Since the NHL season begins in October and the Survivor Series is traditionally held every November, it seemed these two would make a perfect alignment.  And Survivor Series always was my favourite PPV event!  Remember back in the late 1980's and early 1990's, teams of 4 would come together for traditional Survivor Series matches and have cool team names like The Vipers, The King's Court, Rude's Brood and The Enforcers?  For the 2016/17 #TwineTime NHL Season Preview, I have used a similar mentality, although I had to go to the late 1990's version of forming 5-a-side teams, due to the 30 teams competing.  I hope you enjoy (plus it is fun to try something new and be a bit creative right?).

It's time for the NHL Survivor Series:

Elimination Station

30.  Vancouver Canucks (Last Year: 28) - This team is in shambles and will be hard pressed to challenge in the Pacific Division let alone against the very competitive Central.  One team has to be the Koko B. Ware of the Survivor Series right?  (For the record, I was always a fan of Koko and really wished he would have received a stronger push when I was a kid)

29.  Toronto Maple Leafs (LY: 30) - It's a step up from last season at least right?  Leaf nation is in for a long season once again.  Good thing the Jays and Raptors are good at least!

28.  New Jersey Devils (LY: 20) - Taylor Hall was a good trade I suppose and Corey Schneider could have a good season as well...but defence, defence, defence people!  Against high offensive teams like Pittsburgh and Washington in their division, Schneider will have to stand on his head nightly...which I doubt will happen.

27.  Arizona Coyotes (LY: 24) - The Coyotes last longer than expected, mostly due to new arena talk and lots of interest in the team.  However it's only  a matter of time before they join the rest of their team in the locker room.

26.  Columbus Blue Jackets (LY: 27) - Playoff team?  Disappointment?  Sleeper?  Surprise elimination?  Nobody really knows what to expect from this team...it's kind of like watching Akeem in the Survivor Series, you think he should do well yet he always disappoints in the end.

Confused Brood

25.  Colorado Avalanche (LY: 21) - New coach, strong potential, good team....deadly division.  The Central is STACKED and the Avs are probably the weakest team in the division.  Are they better than teams in the Pacific or in the Eastern Conference, sure possibly.  However, in an elimination style event, their schedule of opposition will do them in before they have the chance to truly shine.

24.  Carolina Hurricanes (LY: 18) - Young and fast team, which is good.  Inexperienced with a lack of finesse and scoring, which is bad.  This is the Rockers of the Survivor Series, great potential once again but will just be another number on a more skilled team's elimination chart.

23.  Detroit Red Wings (LY: 15) - Time for the mighty to fall as this season will bring an end to the playoff appearance streak.  The team could still challenge for a playoff spot, don't get me wrong but chances of hanging out for a full season are probably out of the question.

22.  Philadelphia Flyers (LY: 13) - A bit of a surprise playoff team from a season ago, it would be even more surprising to watch this team replicate the same result this year.  The big question is how confused this team will be by mid-season.  Do they cash in the season and make trades to build for the future or do they try their luck and make a run at the playoffs?  They are the Dino Bravo of the Survivor Series, strength and talent to contend but probably should settle into a support role sooner rather than later.

21.  Boston Bruins (LY: 16) - Will they or won't they?  The B's captain the Confused Brood into the season with many question marks hovering around exactly what kind of team they really are.  Some say they will be horrible.  Some think they make the playoffs.  What exactly is going on in Boston?

The 5 x Bye's

20.  New York Islanders (LY: 10) - Great job last season, making a strong run at the Cup and getting people excited about the "little brother" New York team.  However, teams in the East, especially the Metro, are still big...still bad...still strong...and still better!  Another playoff push is going to be hard to come by this season.

19.  Anaheim Ducks (LY: 7) - What a fall from grace this season will be.  The Texas Tornado Kerry Von Erich team of the league, the Ducks will be shot out of the sky and come tumbling back down to Planet Earth.  A hard push over the past few seasons from many thinking this team is Stanley Cup worthy but even with great potential, similar to Von Erich, the stay at the top was short lived.  Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler can still produce the goods but last season's slow start with heavy expectations was a sign this team just might not be as good as everyone thinks they are.  They will push for a playoff spot but come up a game or two short....plus injuries could plague this team hard.

18.  Edmonton Oilers (LY: 29) - The trendy dark horse playoff pick.  McDavid is going to be a star, we already know this.  But a star this season turning a bottom dweller into a playoff Cup contender in one season might be too much to ask.  This team is the Rocky Maivia of the league...lots of potential and interest but still needing a makeover or two before hitting the prime time.

17.  Minnesota Wild (LY: 17) - The last team to make the playoffs a season ago will be the final team to be eliminated before the Stanley Cup playoffs begin this season.  Don't get me wrong, I do not think this is the 17th best team in the league.  I think if this team competed in the Eastern Conference they would be a lock for a playoff spot.  Alas they compete in the West...in the Central...and will come oh so close to making another magical playoff run.  

16.  Ottawa Senators (LY: 19) - The final team to make the playoffs this season will come from Canada's capital.  A new head coach, manager if you will, could help lead this team back to playoff contention and right into the Cup conversation.  Think of this team as the Power & Glory of the league.  Hercules and Paul Roma sat in the middle to lower portion of the PPV card but once they came together under the management of "The Doctor of Style" Slick, they started making names for themselves....even winning a Survivor Series match!

The King's Court

15.  Buffalo Sabres (LY: 23) - Welcome to the playoffs Sabres fans, it has been awhile.  Last season Buffalo was the dark horse sleeper pick to make a playoff run and...well...that didn't really happen.  This season it happens.  The addition of Okposo will be a huge welcome to the team and should help push them into a wildcard spot.

14.  Calgary Flames (LY: 26) - HUGE potential for biggest turn around of the year, going from 26th last season to a Top 3 finish in the Pacific Division and a playoff spot once again.  New coach.  New starting goalie.  Strong defence.  Red hot offence.  This team could shock a few people, similar to a few years ago, and reach the second round of the playoffs once again.

13.  St. Louis Blues (LY: 3) - A reversal from above, the Blues will probably be the team that sees the biggest drop in points and position from a year ago.  Last season everyone thought the Blues would finally reach the Stanley Cup final and bowed out much earlier than expected in the playoffs.  This season they should still be a playoff team but only as a wild card.  The question is who steps up the the plate and carries this team this year?  Consider them a Jake "The Snake" Roberts type of team....potential to make a championship run but then is blinded by a side puff of smoke and taken out of contention earlier than many hope.

12.  New York Rangers (LY: 9) - A team strong enough to regain their playoff spot in the Metro but not strong enough to compete with the big boys of Pittsburgh and Washington.  Defence will be an area of concern for this team, similar to many Metro teams battling the Pens and Caps.  Playoffs, yes!  First round elimination, yes!  Same old, same old in the Big Apple.

11.  LA Kings (LY: 8) - Welcome King Haku as the Captain of The King's Court!  This team is always going to be a threat on the ice and a team nobody really wants to face off against in the playoffs.  They can go from an 8-seed to Stanley Cup Champion in a blink of an eye.  Sometimes people overlook this team and think they don't have the talent to go far but then...BAM!...another strong season and deep playoff run.  King Haku was one of the greatest kings in the WWF-era and one of the strongest guys in the ring every night.  Was he going to become champion?  Nope!  Did nobody want to fight him in the ring because they knew he could beat them at anytime?  Yup!

The Faces of Fear

10.  Winnipeg Jets (LY: 25) - Get ready for another White Out campaign MTS Centre!  The Jets are returning to the playoffs this season.  The big question to start the season is settling the goaltender situation in the 'Peg as three players are fighting for the starting job.  Once the ice melts on that problem though, expect this team to come together nicely and make a playoff run.  The Central is tough, as we all know, and it could come down to a matter or one game nabs you second spot in the division or has you finishing in last place.  Winnipeg has the offence to contend and should solve the issue between the pipes early enough to not be an issue down the stretch.

9.  Dallas Stars (LY: 2) - Benn and Seguin might just be the best young tandem in the league right now.  The Stars are the NHL equivalent to the Hardy Boys...bringing a new generation of high-profile offence and skill to the ice on a nightly basis and ready to push the envelope on expectations and results.  Not considered a traditional powerhouse team every season, the Stars, similar to the Hardy's, are slowly gaining the momentum, fan base and "star" quality needed to elevate their game from a 5 x Bye to a true Faces of Fear contender.  The Stars surprised many last season winning the Central and should be considered a threat to climb the ladder once again.

8.  Montreal Canadians (LY: 22) - The Habs looked like the team to beat in the East to start the season and had a huge lead in the Atlantic Division early on.  However, goalie Carey Price went down and took with him the entire season of Stanley Cup dreams for players and fans alike.  Injuries suck and they can completely derail a great season fast.  However, that was last season.  Time to put that behind the team and move forward.  Contending for another division title is not out of the question this year.

7.  Florida Panthers (LY: 6) - Speaking of division championships, the Florida Panthers enter the season as the defending Atlantic Division champs and have LOTS of expectations placed on them this season.  The big question will be between the pipes.  If Roberto Luongo can replicate, or better, the season from a year ago, the Panthers should be good to go.  If not, James Reimer may need to step up to the plate and keep this team competitive.  Yandle was a great off-season acquisition as well and this team should be a playoff contender once again.

6.  San Jose Sharks (LY: 11) - The defending Western Conference champions will once again be considered a threat to return to the top of the mountain this season.  They are far and away the best team in the Pacific Division and should win the division title comfortably.  This team is the Million Dollar Man team of the league.  Not a lot of people like this team.  The Sharks are always in the hunt though every season and usually come up just short of claiming the big title.

5.  Chicago Blackhawks (LY: 5) - Speaking of teams many people dislike, Hello Chicago!  The Blackhawks are the Bobby "The Brain" Heenan team of the league.  They have owned the league for years, whether people want to admit it or not.  They can outsmart even the best teams in the league and are always in contention for the championship.  The team is loaded with Hall of Fame potential and truly seems to be a real hockey family in the dressing room.  Another deep playoff run is expected this season after the surprise early finish last year.

4.  Tampa Bay Lightning (LY: 12) - The Eastern Conference finalists from a season ago look to be just as strong, if not stronger, than last year.  Last season all the talk surrounded Steve Stamkos and what would he do next?  Will he stay with this team?  Will he be traded?  Once that distraction was erased and the team could focus on the on-ice product, success!  This team should rise to the top of the Atlantic Division this season and will make a run towards another Eastern Conference Championship.

3.  Nashville Predators (LY: 14) - Ok, #TwineTime is drinking the Tennessee juice and buying into the country music loving Predators as the Western Conference pre-season favourite.  The addition of Subban will be huge...and should cover the heartbreak loss of long-time captain Weber.  On paper, this is The Hulkamaniacs team.  Of course, if you remember the very first Survivor Series, even the favoured are prone to an upset....

2.  Washington Capitals (LY: 1) - Ovi, Ovi, Ovi!!  You have to wonder what was going through his head as he watched his on-ice rival Crosby hoist another Stanley Cup last season.  It must have been an even more bitter feeling knowing Crosby's Pens eliminated Ovi's Caps en route to hoisting the trophy once again.  Year in and year out everyone talks in the pre-season how this is the season the Washington Capitals take home the cup.  They are the Andre The Giant of the league.  Everyone expects them to win because of their talent and size, yet they underwhelm in the big match and slink off to the dressing room quietly.  Could this be the year Ovi The Giant grips his first Stanley Cup?

1.  Pittsburgh Penguins (LY: 4) - The defending Stanley Cup Champions deserve the top spot as Sole Survivors heading into this season.  The Crosby concussion situation is worrisome of course and star goaltender Murray being injured puts a damper on the beginning of the season but those issues should, hopefully, ease away as the season gets underway.  The Pens may struggle at bit at the beginning, as has been the case in the past, but once they get into mid-season form, that is when they are at their most dangerous.  Plus this team does have a history of reaching back-to-back Stanley Cup finals.  In fact, it seems that is what they do best.  Remember they won the cup in 1990/91 and 1991/92.  They went to back-to-back cup finals in 2007/08 and 2008/09, winning the cup in 2008/09.  Could they turn the repeat trick again winning 2015/16 and 2016/17?  This team is the "Macho Man" Randy Savage of the NHL.  Unmatched talent.  Undeniable skill.  Some hate them, some love them.  They make great good guys but excellent bad guys.  And, above all else, can go year after year as the Survivor Series Sole Survivor!  Note: Macho Man has only been eliminated in a Survivor Series match once (1993) but, as captain, has never lost a Survivor Series match (1987, 1988, 1989, 1992)!

Get out your best Goon attire, Slapshot sweater, Mighty Ducks references, lucky socks and team car flag now hockey fans, the 100th NHL season of operation and 99th season of play is ready to go.  Enjoy the ride....and Go Pens!

Thursday, 6 October 2016

#BetweenTheSheets: Konungariket Sverige
Team Sweden controls the 2016/17 curling season thus far

The theme of world domination has been one discussed on this blog all season and for good reason.  However, in the wake of last weekend's results on tour, perhaps we need to narrow down the world domination idea to one distinct Scandinavian country.  The Kingdom of Sweden, or "Konungariket Sverige" in Swedish, has established themselves as the dominant nation this season....on both the men's and women's tour.  Sweden may be the third largest country in the European Union but they are the largest money winners on the World Curling Tour!  It might be time to grab your axe, raise your crown and start praising "Svensk Dominans" (Swedish Dominance).

The big victories in Europe last weekend by Nik Edin and Anna Hasselborg vaulted them both to the top of the money list.  In fact, in the case of Team Edin, they have almost doubled the total prize money of their closest competitor Team de Cruz ($42,024 to $21,553).  And, to further show the #WorldDomination theme, of the Top 11 men's teams on the money list 7 represent Team World (including the Top 3).  On the women's money list, 5 of the Top 10 money winners are from Team World (including 3 of the Top 4).  The North American teams better step up their game quick or else the world rankings...and all the money...are going to be going international this season!

With Edin and Hasselborg grabbing main headlines last weekend, here is your #GunnerRunback to Week 7 on tour:

  • The Swiss Cup Basel provided another opportunity for Team Edin to assert their dominance over their competition, picking up their second title of the season by defeating David Murdoch in the championship final.  Strong showing by Kyle Smith and Peter de Cruz though in making the SF and, for Team de Cruz vaulting them to the #2 spot on the money list.
  • The home nation celebrated hard in Stockholm when Sweden's Anna Hasselborg continued her hot start to the season defeating Hannah Fleming in the Stockholm Ladies Cup final.  This is the second tournament win for Team Hasselborg this season and this time against a very strong international field on home ice.  Silvana Tirinzoni continued to show her solid start to the season as well in making the SF along with Korea's EunJung Kim.
  • It was a welcome back party in Vernon, B.C. at the Prestige Hotels & Resorts Curling Classic for Marla Mallett.  The 2009 B.C. Scotties champion (and Canadian Scotties runner-up) proved to be the ultimate home province underdog, going 7-1 over the weekend and claiming her first tour title since the 2008/09 season defeating Cheryl Bernard in the final.  Mallett lost her opening game to Kerri Einarson but would not be defeated again, including victories over Julie Tippin, Val Sweeting (QF) and Bernard (F).  On the men's side, a #TardiParty took over when Tyler Tardi won his first career tour title defeating Japan's Yusuke Morozumi in the final.  Tardi qualified via the C-side but defeated favourites Jim Cotter (SF) and Morozumi (F) to claim the title.  #TwineTime warned you about this team being a dark horse...look out B.C. men's teams.
  • At the Avonair Cash Spiel in Edmonton, another dark horse team took home a title.  This time Glen Hansen defeated Charley Thomas in the championship final.  Hansen lost to Thomas in the opening game for both teams but would go undefeated the rest of the way, including defeating two-time defending champion Korea's SooHyuk Kim (TB), 2013 Champion Ted Appelman (QF) and Thomas (F).  It was an early birthday gift for skipper Nadine Chyz on the women's draw as Team Chyz would defeat Jodie Marthaller to claim the championship title.  Chyz would go 5-1 on the weekend en route to taking home her first title since the 2013/14 season.
  • In Winnipeg, Korea's Chang-Min Kim would reach his second consecutive tour final and, once again, find himself playing one of the Bohn brothers.  Last weekend, Kim lost the final to David Bohn.  This weekend, Kim would exact his revenge in defeating twin brother Dennis Bohn in the KKP Classic final.  Kim actually defeated Bohn in the round robin as well, part of his undefeated record for the weekend that included victories over defending champion Daley Peters (QF), pre-tournament favourite Matt Dunstone (SF) and Bohn again (F).

When looking at last weekend's results we see three more #TeamWorld teams picking up tournament titles and another runner-up finish.  We also saw a few upset teams take home the prize money, which is always great to see for the #growthesport mentality.  Did these results cause a shake-up with the #PowerRankings?  Show me the rankings.....


1.  Team Edin (LW: 3)
2.  Team Gushue (2)
3.  Team Koe (1)
4.  Team Ulsrud (NR)
5.  Team Jacobs (4)

Hon. Mention:  Team Smith, Team de Cruz, Team Murdoch 


1.  Team Hasselborg (LW: 5)
2.  Team Homan (1)
3.  Team Tirinzoni (3)
4.  Team Muirhead (2)
5.  Team Sweeting (HM)

Hon. Mention:  Team Rocque, Team J. Jones, Team Flaxey

As should be expected, we see some major moves on the #TwineTime rankings mountain this week.  Team Edin sprints to the top with their big win in Basel.  This is the second tournament win of the season for the boys.  They have qualified in all 5 events entered and have two titles and two SF to show for it.  Right now, they are curling as the best team in the world!  Koe slips to #3 more due to inactivity so far this season and combined with strong results of Edin and Gushue ahead of him.  Welcome Team Ulsrud to the rankings though.  Ulsrud has qualified in all 3 of their events this season (including last weekend in Basel) and has 2 runner-up finishes.  The Norwegian #CrazyPants are starting to once again look like a world championship threat.  Strong results from Smith, de Cruz and Murdoch put them on the cusp of a Top 5 ranking as well.  #TeamWorld folks!

On the women's side, we finally see a changing of the guard....at least for now!  It is impossible to deny the top spot to Anna Hasselborg right now.  She has led her team to two championships and qualified in each of the events they have entered this season.  They are playing the most consistent curling on the women's side to the this point.  Homan slips down one for similar reasons to Koe above, inactivity.  Once their season really kicks off though, watch out!  Tirinzoni remains ahead of Muirhead due to the results in Stockholm with Tirinzoni reaching the SF.  Team Sweeting moves up to that coveted, and often hard to hold onto, #5 spot after the QF result in Vernon.  Team Rocque and Team Flaxey could be surprise teams to watch as well in pushing for a Power Rankings spot.

Last weekend proved to be a VERY successful weekend for #TourLifePredictions.  #TwineTime accurately called the championship wins by Team Edin and Team Chyz.  A dark horse contender, Team Tardi, took home a title as well.  Two teams predicted as finalists (Hasselborg and Kim) ended up not only reaching their respected finals but also winning.  Plus Morozumi finished runner-up, as predicted.  Of the 7 events covered last weekend, #TwineTime only missed accurately predicting a finalist or winner in 2 of those events.  Getting a bit better at this....only close to 3 years later.

This week is Thanksgiving Weekend in Canada and curling fans have LOTS to be thankful for with a very packed line-up of events to keep an eye on (or attend in person perhaps?), including 3 new events on the men's tour, 1 new event on the women's tour and the one event title name that makes all grown men giggle like little children.  Let's get to Week 8 #TourLifePredictions:


StuSells Toronto Tankard

Toronto, ON

2015 Champion:  Mike McEwen

Format:  24 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered:  Team Gushue, Team McEwen, Team Jacobs, Team Howard, Team Epping

Dark Horse Candidate:  All eyes will be on the power Canadian teams in this field but a dark horse contender from Switzerland could challenge them all.  Michael Brunner's team from Gstadd, Switzerland has quietly put together a pretty solid first month of the season.  This is Brunner's third season on tour and, after stepping back into vice role last season, he returns to the head of the house and is finding success.  The team qualified at the Oakville Fall Classic and the Stu Sells Oakville Tier 2 in September.  Last weekend they struggled a bit in Basel but the experience of competing in a tough field could benefit them in the long run.  Qualification in Toronto might be a bit out of reach but don't be surprised to see this team pick up a few wins and advance along the bracket throughout the weekend.

W2W4:  What's up with #RedPants?  Mike McEwen's team came into the season fresh off their first Manitoba title and expectations have been high.  The team has struggled a bit to start the season.  The QF result at Shorty Jenkins was a good start to the season but the 3-3 end result and failing to qualify a few weeks ago in Saskatoon was a bit concerning.  Last season Team McEwen was a team of consistency and it will be interesting to see if they can channel those results back into this season.  They are the defending champions here as well so you expect them to come out with the same level of intensity to match their pants....fire red!

Qualifiers:  Team Gushue, Team McEwen, Team Jacobs, Team Epping, Team Howard, Team Stjerne, Team Kim, Team Balsdon

Championship:  Team Jacobs def. Team Gushue

Direct Horizontal Drilling Fall Classic

Edmonton, AB

2015 Champion:  Kevin Koe

Format:  24 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Koe, Team Morris, Team Laycock, Team Bottcher

Dark Horse Candidate:  This is a big event for Jason Gunnlaugson.  The team has started the season strong, currently sitting #6 on the year to date (YTD) Order of Merit (OOM) and #13 on the money list.  The momentum has been building since their SF appearance at their season opening event in Oakville.  Gunnlaugson has led the team to qualifying in 3 of their first 4 events, albeit the one they failed to qualify for was their last event two weeks ago in Winnipeg.  "Gunner" has long been touted as an up and comer with a ton of potential.  After the whole "off to Russia" episode kind of blew up, he has been trying to get his foot back in the hack of success.  Last season was a good start as vice with Team Lyburn but now, taking over a championship post-Dunstone team, expectations are higher than ever.  With a strong field ahead of him, this is the perfect opportunity to show Canadian curling fans...and opposing teams....this team is for real and can be the #1 threat to Team McEwen's Manitoba Tankard title!  Was the hot start to the season a sign of things to come or just a bit of luck?

W2W4:  What isn't there to watch?  This is going to be a very competitive event.  All the teams entered have great tour experience under their belts.  We have World Champions, Brier Champions, World and Canadian Junior Champions.  Many provincial tankard titles across the lineup.  We also have strong Asian teams representing #TeamWorld.  You really could watch any game on the ice every draw and be entertained.  This is a perfect event to put on the big boy pants and show what your team is made of.  Sure there are strong favourites but I wouldn't underestimate any team in this field.  The format is also interesting.  There will be 3 A and B qualifiers and 2 C qualifiers compared to the traditional 2 A, 3 B and 3 C format we often see.  This could be a huge advantage to those "seeded" teams like Koe and Morris.  But also look at what some of those A qualifier match ups could be:  Morris vs. Laycock?  Or Gunnlaugson vs. Laycock?  Thomas vs. Koe?  Or how about Bottcher vs. Dunstone?  However this draw unfolds, you will want to pay attention to each game each draw!

Qualifiers:  Team Morris, Team Bottcher, Team Koe, Team Dunstone, Team Laycock, Team Thomas, Team Meachem, Team Gunnlaugson

Championship:  Team Koe def. Team Morris

St. Paul Cash Spiel

St. Paul, MN.

2015 Champion:  Todd Birr

Format:  20 team round robin with 4 pools of 5 teams.  Top 8 qualify.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Shuster, Team McCormick, Team Clark

Dark Horse Candidate:  The experience of Craig Brown should not be overlooked entering this event...or this season.  USA Curling has seen a main focus be placed on teams Shuster, McCormick and Clark over the past few seasons but Brown is right in the mix once again for a world championship spot.  Team Brown has had a strong start to the season as well with a QF appearance at their season opening event in Oakville and barely missing the playoffs with a respected 3-2 record at the Shorty Jenkins.  Brown himself hasn't won an event since the 2013/14 season but this could be his opportunity to find the winner's circle once again.  Plus, being from Wisconsin, you know Brown would love to take home a title in the rival state of Minnesota.

W2W4:  This is the first big event of the year featuring the top U.S. men's curling teams.  In a race for the World Championship spot, teams will want to get off to a strong start against the competition and this event is the perfect opportunity.  If you followed Team USA's snapchat takeover with Team McCormick vice Chris Plys (a member the of the #TwineTime family btw) and second Korey Dropkin you would have seen the great venue in St. Paul and the huge increased interest in the sport.  MN may be a hockey state but curling is right behind in interest.  Expect great fan turn out and outstanding curling action as the race for the Red, White and Blue World Championship jackets heats up!

Qualifiers:  Team Shuster, Team McCormick, Team Clark, Team Brown, Team Koivula, Team Sieg, Team Fenson, Team Farbelow

Championship:  Team McCormick def. Team Clark

Man Curl Tour Classic

Winnipeg, MB.

2015 Champion:  New Event

Format:  16 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Bohn x 2, Team Calvert

Dark Horse Candidate:  Are you familiar with Taylor McIntyre?  No?  Well it might be time to take notice.  McIntyre is only in his second season of skipping, previously playing second for a few different teams.  Last season the team played 3 events, qualified in two and picked up a championship title!  This will be the third event of the season for this team and they come here fresh off a QF appearance last weekend at the KKP Classic.  This weekend they will face off against many of the same teams they have already seen this season as well.  McIntyre could surprise again...time to take notice?

W2W4:  The Twin Bohn Attack!  David Bohn won an event two weeks ago, defeating his brother in the SF (in an extra end too!).  Twin brother Dennis Bohn made the finals last weekend.  What should we expect to see this weekend?  Could we have a Bohn Brother Championship Fight?  In all seriousness though, both Bohn brother teams have been curling great to start the season and are slowly positioning themselves as two dark horse teams to challenge the top teams in Manitoba this season.  This is another perfect event where 15 of the teams are from provincial rivals and prime opportunity for both teams to exert their early season dominance over the competition.  But which Bohn wins out in the end?

Qualifiers:  Team Peters, Team Dennis Bohn, Team David Bohn, Team Calvert, Team McIntyre, Team Muntain, Team Grassie, Team Ramsay

Championship:  Team David Bohn def. Team Dennis Bohn


Curlers Corner Autumn Gold Curling Classic

Calgary, AB

2015 Champion:  Rachel Homan

Format:  32 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Jones, Team Sweeting, Team Carey, Team Lawton, Team Rocque, Team Flaxey

Dark Horse Candidate:  What will Casey Scheidegger do next?  The last time we saw Team Scheidegger on the ice they upset Eve Muirhead in the HDF Insurance Shoot-Out in Edmonton.  The question is whether or not they can replicate that magic this weekend in Calgary.  This is a very strong field once again with many of the same teams competing here that competed in Edmonton.  Can lightning strike twice with back-to-back upset wins?  Keep on eye on this team this weekend.

W2W4:  Will the big names step up and finally flex their muscles or will we continue to see more upsets and...dare I say it...a bit more parity on the world curling tour?  Team Carey, Team Einarson and Team Lawton have failed to live up to pre-season expectations early on.  Team Flaxey and Team Sweeting have found success but have not claimed a title yet, coming close mind you.  As for Team Jones, we have yet to see skipper Jennifer back on the ice and the team competing at full strength...yet!  Jones did compete at the mixed doubles event last weekend with husband Brent Laing and reached the SF.  And what about Team World?  Well for this event it will be Team Asia with 7 teams entered from the continent.  Will #WorldDomination continue?

Qualifiers:  Team Sweeting, Team Rocque, Team Wang, Team Fujisawa, Team Flaxey, Team Lawton, Team Jones, Team Scheidegger

Championship:  Team Fujisawa def. Team Sweeting

Womens Masters Basel

Basel, SUI

2015 Champion:  Anna Sidorova

Format:  24 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Feltscher, Team Hasselborg, Team Muirhead, Team Paetz, Team Sidorova, Team Sigfridsson, Team Tirinzoni

Dark Horse Candidate:  Welcome back Andrea Crawford.  The 7-time New Brunswick Scotties champion will return to the curling ice for the first time in over two years.  Everyone knows the story by now of Crawford moving out to Alberta to join Team Sweeting in 2014 and then left the team to return to New Brunswick.  The change was swift and the entire story is still surrounded in speculation outside of the team members themselves.  However, Crawford now resides in Germany and has joined forced with a powerhouse: two-time World Champion Andrea Schoepp!  This will be the first opportunity to see the new-look Team Schoepp.  Crawford does add experience and a strong skillset to the second position.  Time will tell how the team gels though.  Either way, they should be fun to watch this weekend.

W2W4:  Sweden vs. Switzerland.  It appears, after years of Switzerland dominating the women's curling scene, Sweden is ready to step back up to the top of the house and take back the crown.  Teams Hasselborg and Sigfirdsson have looked strong this season.  The Swiss women, on the other hand, are being anchored by Team Tirinzoni while defending world champion Team Feltscher and 2015 world champion Team Paetz have struggled early on.  Hasselborg took home the title last weekend at home.  Can one of the Swiss teams respond by doing the same this weekend?

Qualifiers:  Team Sigfridsson, Team Tirinzoni, Team Hasselborg, Team Feltscher, Team Sidorova, Team Muirhead, Team Wrana, Team Fleming

Championship:  Team Sidorova def. Team Hasselborg

StuSells Toronto Tankard

Toronto, ON

2015 Champion:  Erika Brown

Format:  18 team round robin with 2 pools of 5 teams and 2 pools of 4 teams.  Top 8 qualify.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Fleury, Team Middaugh, Team Harrison, Team Hastings

Dark Horse Candidate:  Quebec's Eve Belisle has not played competitive curling and skipped a team since the 2013/14 season.  She has returned to the house this season with a new team...a very strong team actually.  With Lauren Mann as vice and Brittany O'Rourke as lead, this team has lots of experience and should challenge defending Quebec Scotties champ Marie-France Larouche this season.  However, we are still waiting for this team to come together and showcase the talent we know is there.  They will have a very experienced field this weekend but, outside Tracey Fleury, they have were drawn into a manageable pool where they could pick up a few wins and maybe have an outside shot at qualifying here.

W2W4:  Are we seeing more parity in women's curling in Ontario?  With Team Homan being the regular favourite for the Ontario Scotties title year in and year out, the question always is who will be the next team(s) to step up and challenge them?  Jenn Hanna did it, successfully, last season.  Sherry Middaugh has been the team most have been watching and expecting to challenge them.  Julie Hastings also has a recent Ontario Scotties title to her credit.  But who is the 2016 "Team Hanna"?  Julie Tippin seems to have the inside track with strong recent results.  Middaugh did win their recent event two weeks ago (over Tippin in the final).  Plus other strong contenders like Cathy Auld, Chrissy Cadorin and Danielle Inglis have really turned it up the season as teams to watch.

Qualifiers:  Team Middaugh, Team Cadorin, Team Fleury, Team Belisle, Team Inglis, Team Hastings, Team Arsenault, Team Auld

Championship:  Team Middaugh def. Team Cadorin

St. Paul Cash Spiel

St. Paul, MN.

2015 Champion:  Cory Christensen

Format:  10 team round robin with 2 pools of 5 teams.  Top 5 qualify.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Christensen, Team Roth, Team Sinclair

Dark Horse Candidate:  This may be an American spiel, in an American city, but it could be the lone Canadian team to steal the thunder this weekend.  Saskatchewan's Robyn Silvernagle could surprise her south of the border competitors and should not be overlooked.  Silvernagle comes to St. Paul fresh off a SF appearance at last weekend's Nutana Classic in Saskatoon.  A few weeks ago Silvernagle defeated top teams like Michelle Englot and Cathy Overton-Clapham at the Colonial Square event, also in Saskatoon, while playing tough in losses to Val Sweeting and Stef Lawton.  Don't underestimate this team!

W2W4:  Similar to the men's draw, this is a perfect opportunity to see the top US women's teams competing.  The winner of this event will be given the early tag as front runner for the world championship spot.  It is a small field, which is a bit disheartening from a fan's perspective as you always want to see a more teams competing....remember #growthesport friends!  However, there are very strong, high quality teams competing so the action on the ice should be fantastic.

Qualifiers:  Team Christensen, Team Silvernagle, Team Roth, Team Sinclair, Team Schultz

Championship:  Team Roth def. Team Silvernagle

The start of the Grand Slam of Curling season is TWO(!!) weeks away.  Don't miss your chance to tell #TwineTime which #gsoc event is your favourite during the season.  Head over to the #TwineTime Home Page and vote NOW!  Seriously, it only takes a second to vote and I want to YOUR feedback on this one stoners and rock heads.  Which grand slam event will be crowned the Grand Slam Fan Choice Champion?

On a final note, I am happy to announce the #TwineTime blog will become a regular contributor to Title Sports Live.  Over the past two and a half years the #TwineTime blog has tried to bring a curling fan's perspective to the sport and I am very honoured, humbled and proud of the progress this blog has made.  I cannot thank all of the loyal stoners and rock heads out there enough who follow along with each post during the season as well as the numerous athletes on tour who have reached out and expressed their support and encouragement.  I look forward to working with Title Sports Live in the near future and continue to bring curling coverage to all sports fans all over the world.  #StayTuned  #growthesport