Brad Gushue isn’t a fan of the new Tim Hortons Brier/Scotties Tournament of Hearts format that was instituted this year, one that saw 16 teams — divided into two pools — participate in each event’s preliminary round. Eight teams — the top four from each of the two pools — then moved into a championship pool.
At last week’s world women’s championship in North Bay, Ont., and at this week’s world men’s bonspiel in Las Vegas, the World Curling Federation has added a 13th team to the field, from the Pacific-Asia region. The familiar four-team Page Playoff has been replaced with a six-team setup, with the top two finishers in the round-robin going directly to the semifinals, while the four remaining playoff teams facing off in qualification games.
Semifinal winners play for gold and semifinal losers meet for bronze.
In North Bay, Jennifer Jones was a perfect 12-0 in the round-robin. Sweden was 10-2, followed by South Korea (8-4), Russia (7-5), the Czech Republic (6-6) and the United States (6-6).
The U.S. beat South Korea in a qualification game, setting up a semifinal date with Jones, which drew some criticism.
Former Canadian and world champion Glenn Howard Tweeted: “Ok folks, I just can't stand back and not comment. Does it make any sense that the USA (7-6) is playing Canada (12-0) in a semi? Not to me. There has to be a carrot for winning the RR. My God, even the page system is 100 times better. #horribleformat #makeitright #my2cents.”
“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for someone like Jennifer to go undefeated and then play a semifinal against a team that has six losses,” Gushue said. “Why are you playing those 12 games to get to the same point? All you get is hammer.”
Gushue maintains the previous system wasn’t broken, so why try and fix it?
“They could have stuck with same playoff format,” he said. “To have almost half the teams making the playoffs is a little diluted. And you saw that at the women’s this year with multiple teams with six or seven wins getting into the playoffs. Playoffs are for the best of the best.
“A six-loss team isn’t necessarily the best. I would have liked to have seen them with top four.”
The world championship opens today at the Orleans Arena, just off the Las Vegas Strip and the former home of the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers.
With the Vegas Golden Knights joining the NHL this season, there was said to be some light-hearted concern by general managers of their players picking up the “Vegas flu” — that is the lingering effects from a night in Sin City.
That won’t be the case with Team Gushue.
“We’re probably considered one of the more disciplined teams — I guess you could say boring teams — on tour,” Mark Nichols said.
“We’re not partiers. We’re going there for one reason only, to defend our world championship.
“When we hot the ice Saturday,” he said, “it’s go time.”
The team left St. John’s Tuesday to relax a few days before their first game today. They took in a Golden Knights-Arizona Coyotes game Wednesday.
After repeating as Canadian champions, Gushue, Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker will try to be the first back-to-back world champions since Canada’s Randy Ferbey did it in 2002-03.