The top men’s curling teams in Canada will converge in London, Ontario, to compete in this year’s highly anticipated Tim Horton’s Brier.
Alongside some familiar faces, you can expect to see a number of promising young players eager to make their mark on the sport’s biggest stage. The ultimate question on everyone’s mind is: which team will emerge victorious and claim this year’s National Tankard?
We’ve highlighted a few teams that are favoured to win, as well as a couple of underdogs to keep an eye on.
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TOP RINKS TO ROLL WITH
Matt Dunstone, known as the Sheriff, has left behind his Saskatchewan stripes and now represents his home Province of Manitoba. This new and exciting team has made quite a name for themselves, reaching six final appearances out of ten tournaments, including notable wins at Red Deer Classic, DEKALB Superspiel, and the Viterra Manitoba Championship.
As the top-ranked team in Canada, Manitoba is determined not only to win Group A but also to secure the first Tankard victory for the province since 2011.
Prediction: Pool A Winner – Anything short of the finals would be disappointing.
Wild Card #1 (+150)
It’s unusual to witness Brendan Bottcher and his team competing without their familiar Alberta colours or even as Team Canada. Instead, they come into the London Brier tournament as Wild Card 1, and oddly enough, it seems fitting.
“Wild” is certainly an appropriate term to characterize this newly formed all-star team. Although they were inconsistent in 2022, they’ve been on a roll since the start of the new year. The quartet demonstrated their strength by winning the Canadian Open with an unblemished record. They sustained their impressive run into the Alberta provincials until they lost in the final to Team Koe.
According to CTRS, the team ranks as the #2 seed and is filled with plenty of experience. Together, they possess a dozen Brier Tankards, three Olympic medals, and five world championships.
If anyone wants to witness some wild Brier action, this team will surely provide plenty of drama. It won’t be surprising if they claim the National Championship title along the way.
Prediction: 2nd in Pool B, maybe 1st? – Coming in hot! And usually, that translates well in this tournament.
It has been a very up-and-down season for Team Alberta. Kevin Koe has had to adjust to playing with a new team along with rookie sensation Tyler Tardi in tow.
But it just seems that Koe finds his game when it matters. In the Alberta final, Team Koe emerged victorious over Team Brendan Bottcher with a score of 6-5 by securing two points with the crucial hammer in the 10th end. But it’s the Brier where Koe does his best work, and based on how great he looked at Provincials, this team could be peaking at the right time.
They’re ranked #4 going into this tourney, and some may see some cracks in their game, but if there is anyone who can make a push for the podium, it’s Alberta.
Prediction: 2nd in Group A and playoff bound. A Kevin Koe with momentum is a dangerous Kevin Koe.
Team Canada (+125)
History could be made at this year’s Brier. Skip, Brad Gushue will be looking to win his fifth National Championship, which would be a new Canadian record.
In last year’s Brier, Gushue and his team showcased a remarkable level of perseverance as they battled through COVID-19 protocols and formidable opponents such as former champions Brendan Bottcher and Kevin Koe to capture the 2022 Tankard. While this victory may have been unexpected for some, it was not surprising for those who know better than to bet against Gushue.
Team Canada boasts an abundance of talent, but they also bear the weight of a large target on their backs. The team has opted for a lighter schedule this season in the hopes of remaining fresh and well-prepared to secure another Championship title. Was that a wise choice? We’ll see if it pays off.
Prediction: Potential Group A winner – considered the team to beat by bookies. We think they’ll be in the mix but might come up short against hotter teams that have been more active this season.
SLEEPER, SWEEPER PICKS
If you’re looking for some upsets or even a dark horse to emerge as this year’s Brier, you may want to look at Team Ontario. Just before their Provincial Championship, team skip Mike McEwen thought a change was needed and parted ways with lead Jonathan Beuk and replaced him with a young Joey Hart.
That insurgence of youth seemed to give the team some extra juice as they went 8-1 over the Provincial tourney, including beating out Team Glenn Howard in the final to qualify for this year’s Brier.
Prediction: Could squeak into the playoffs finishing third in Group B. If that happens, watch out!
Wild Card #2 (+15000)
Another team that made some changes was Team Reid Carruthers, who lost his third in Jason Gunnlaughson just before Christmas. The team decided to go full Gushue and play with only three players. It seemed to work for them as they reeled off some wins and got to the Manitoba finals before falling to Matt Dunstone’s team.
But it will be a crew of four at this year’s Brier, with Rob Gordon joining their team as the lead. As the #5 ranked seed, this team could do some damage early in the Round Robin. If there is any team that screams dark horse, it’s Wild Card #2.
Prediction: A definite sleeper pick. Could fall into a playoff position as third in Group A.
OFFICIAL BRIER TEAM RANKINGS
- Wild Card #1
- Wild Card #2
- Wild Card #3
- Northern Ontario
- British Columbia
- Nova Scotia
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- New Brunswick
- Prince Edward Island
- Northwest Territories