The Masters Grand Slam Preview
The Masters Grand Slam will 15 men’s and 15 women’s teams compete in a round-robin format with the top eight teams qualifying for the playoffs. Following is an overview of each team participating in both the men’s and women’s events in Okotoks, Alberta along with an interview we did with Mark Nichols of Team Gushue.
Team Bottcher – The addition of Pat Simmons was made, in part, for events such as Grand Slams where his experience will benefit an otherwise young team. They have qualified for the playoffs in 3 of 4 events this season but the true test of their progress will be at events such as the Masters.
Team Carruthers – This team looked a little lost early in the season but has turned a corner having made the final in their last two events, winning at the Canad Inns Classic against a strong field.
Team de Cruz – This team has had a solid start to their season including a victory on Europe’s Curling Champions Tour. This is a good team that could use a strong Grand Slam result to help them in their progression.
Team Edin – Coming off their third win of the young season, Team Edin is in top form entering the Masters. Despite all their successes, Team Edin has never won a Grand Slam and the team will look to change this at the Masters this week.
Team Epping – This team was a bit inconsistent early in the season but are coming on strong including a victory this weekend in Gatineau. Team Epping had solid Grand Slam results last season including a victory at the Canadian Open.
Team Gushue – It has been an interesting season for this team that has qualified for the playoffs in all their events including a win at the Stu Sell in Toronto all without Brad Gushue who is out with an injury. Team Gushue was very impressive in the Slams last season, winning three Grand Slams and reaching two other finals.
Team Howard – This team has had mixed results early this season and were bumped to the Tier 2 event for next month’s Tour Challenge. There is much pride on this team and Glenn Howard himself has won the Masters on six occasions. Expect them to make some noise in Okotoks.
Team Jacobs – This season has been a mixed bag so far for Team Jacobs, they have qualified for the playoffs in each of their events but only made it past the quarterfinals once when they won in Saskatoon. The team struggled a bit in the Grand Slams last season but are always a threat if they get on a roll.
Team Koe – The Canadian and World Champions have “only” one victory in three events this season but they tend to focus on Grand Slams. The current lineup has played 12 Slams together and have made the playoffs in 11 of them.
Team Laycock – After a difficult start to the season, Team Laycock has made the semi-finals in each of their past three events, winning the DHD Classic in Edmonton. They have been good in the Grand Slams but are still looking for a breakthrough performance.
Team McEwen – Last season, this team won a Grand Slam and made the semi-finals in three others but have had a difficult start to the current season, never advancing past the quarterfinals in three events. It will be interesting to see if the first Grand Slam of the season can energize Team McEwen.
Team Cotter – The reunion of Jim Cotter and John Morris has gone well so far. The team has qualified for the playoffs in all their events this season, making the final at the Stu Sells event in Oakville.
Team Murdoch – An uneven start to the season for this team that recently lost in the final of the playdowns to represent Scotland at the European Championships. Grand Slams have typically not been kind to this team although they made the semifinals at last season’s Players’ Championship.
Team Shuster – It’s been a rough start to the season for this team having qualified for the playoffs in only one of their five events and not advancing past the quarterfinals. They could use a strong performance in Okotoks to turn their season around.
Team Smith – This young team has had a great start to their season, winning the OCT Fall Classic and making the playoffs in all their events so far. They do lack experience in Grand Slams but rarely look phased when facing established teams.
Team Carey – It has been a slow start to the season for the Canadian champions. They won a summer event in Japan but have failed to get past the quarterfinals in any of their three events since the start of September. Team Carey played in all but one Grand Slam last season making the playoffs once, a semifinal result at the Canadian Open.
Team Einarson – This team needs a positive result in Okotoks to help them out of a slow start to their season where they have yet to qualify for any playoffs.
Team Flaxey – This team is off to a solid start this season, making two finals and qualifying for the playoffs in each of their 5 events. A strong performance in the Masters could do for Team Flaxey what the Tour Challenge Tier 2 event did for Team Einarson last season.
Team Feltscher – The 2016 World Champions have had a slow start to their 2016-17 WCT season and did not make the playoffs in a Grand Slam last season. However, they recently won the Swiss European Trials which might give them the momentum they need for a solid performance in Okotoks.
Team Fleury – Team Fleury had solid results in Grand Slams last season and are likely hoping that the Masters will provide them with the spark needed to ignite their 2016-17 season. The team has qualified for the playoffs in 3 of 4 events this season but has yet to make it past the quarterfinals.
Team Hasselborg – One of the “surprise” teams of the season. Team Hasselborg was knocking at the door last year and this season knocked that door down with two early season titles. If they hold their current form they should be a threat in their first Tier 1 Grand Slam appearance as a team.
Team Homan – The defending and three-time champions at the Masters. Team Homan are coming off a season where they won three Grand Slams and they have won both events they have entered so far this season.
Team Jones – As always, Team Jones is expected to be in the hunt at this Grand Slam. They are coming of a season where they won the Champions Cup and made two other Grand Slam finals. Jennifer Jones recently played her first event of the season and helped the team reach the final.
Team Kim – This Korean team might not get as many headlines as some other teams but their Top 10 ranking is well-earned. They had limited success in the Grand Slams last season but have qualified for the playoffs in 3 of their 4 WCT events so far this season, reaching the semi-finals three times.
Team Muirhead – After a busy off-season that included a lineup and coaching change, Team Muirhead is off to a fine start this season having won a title and made two other finals on the WCT. Muirhead has won six Slams in her career but never this event. The Masters also marks the return of Anna Sloan at 3rd, she had been out with a knee injury since late last season.
Team Paetz – It has been a slow start to the season for Team Paetz having qualified for the quarterfinals in only one of their four WCT events. A strong performance in the Masters would provide this team with some confidence although, historically, they have not fared well in the Grand Slams.
Team Rocque – This rink qualified for the playoffs in 5 of the 6 Slams they entered in their first season as a team. So far this season, they have made the semifinals in two of their three events and qualified for the quarterfinals in the other.
Team Sidorova – The Russian champions have made the quarterfinals in both their events this season but have not advanced any further. They are also coming off a stunning loss in the Russian European Trials. Team Sidorova has had success in Canada in the past but are still looking for their first Grand Slam title.