Handicapping the men’s world curling championship

There might be some geoblocking on the YouTube feed. Let’s hope not. This is going to be fun.

A look at each team, in order of year-to-date Order of Merit:

CANADA: Kevin Koe is the skip after winning a masterful performance at the Brier, his team’s sixth win in 11 events this year. He won the world title in 2010 and was fourth in 2014, but he has a totally new crew now.

Order of Merit, total: 4th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 1st
Best finish in 2015-16: 1st. Often.

SWEDEN: Niklas Edin isn’t just the top non-Canadian curler in the world. He’s the defending world champion. He won his first world title in 2013, took bronze in Sochi, replaced his entire team, and won Worlds again in 2015. This is a well-funded crew, playing 16 events all over the world this season, usually in the top five.

Order of Merit, total: 6th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 8th
Best finish in 2015-16: 1st, European Championships and Baden Masters (and 1st in Sweden)

USA: John Shuster is still in his early 30s. He just seems like he’s been around forever. He was the lead on the most successful U.S. men’s team in recent years, Pete Fenson’s 2006 bronze medalists. He has been back to the Olympics twice as a skip, finishing a disappointing 10th and 9th. He’s been a bit better at Worlds, finishing fifth in two previous trips as skip. This season? Runner-up in the U.S. Championships, but first in three other events.

Order of Merit, total: 14th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 14th
Best finish in 2015-16: 1st, three times. 

SCOTLAND: Tom Brewster represents the sport’s ancestral home and has done so many times on the world stage. He has medals — Olympic silver as an alternate, two World Championship silvers as a skip — but no gold yet. They’ve been busy this year, playing 13 events and finishing in the top 5 in 10 of them.

Order of Merit, total: 18th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 15th
Best finish in 2015-16: 2nd, Baden Masters and Aberdeen International (and 1st in Scotland)

SWITZERLAND: Sven Michel has skipped once at Worlds (7th, 2013) and the Olympics (8th, 2014). His only win this season was the Swiss Championship, but they’ve been close several times, traveling almost as much as the Swedes.

Order of Merit, total: 16th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 16th
Best finish in 2015-16: 2nd, Dave Jones Stanhope Simpson Mayflower Cashspiel (and 1st in Switzerland)

NORWAY: Thomas Ulsrud and his very loud pants is making his 12th appearance at Worlds, and he has been playing with the same group for nearly a decade. They took silver in the 2010 Olympics and then a gold and silver in the last two World Championships. No wins this season, but they’re usually in the playoffs. A team to watch, as if you could miss those pants.

Order of Merit, total: 10th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 17th
Best finish in 2015-16: 2nd, Mercure Perth Masters (and, oddly, 2nd in Norwegian Championships)

SOUTH KOREA: Kim Soo-hyuk has been here twice before as a third, finishing 10th in 2003 and 11th in 2011. This is his first Worlds as a skip. But this is a hot team this season — five top-3s and two fifth-place finishes in eight events.

Order of Merit, total: 30th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 25th
Best finish in 2015-16: 1st, Pacific-Asia Championships and Avonair Cash Spiel 

JAPAN: Yusuke Morozumi is still looking for a breakthrough in his fifth Worlds (fourth straight) with the same crew. His best is fifth in 2014. Odd stat: He has never won the Pacific-Asia title but has finished second six times, four in a row.

Order of Merit, total: 24th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 51st
Best finish in 2015-16: 2nd, Pacific-Asia Curling Championships (and 1st in Japan)

FINLAND: Aku Kauste. Sounds like a Death Metal band, doesn’t he? This is his fifth time at Worlds, third as skip. Before that, he played with Markku … OK, let’s copy and paste … Uusipaavalniemi He was fourth with Mr. U in 2003 and again last year.

Order of Merit, total: 28th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 54th
Best finish in 2015-16: 3rd, Edinburgh International

DENMARK: Rasmus Stjerne is making his fourth appearance as a skip at Worlds at the young-ish age of 27. His best finish is fourth in 2013. This year’s results aren’t great — three top-5s in seven events.

Order of Merit, total: 67th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 67th
Best finish in 2015-16: 2nd, Stroud Sleeman Cash Spiel

GERMANY: Alexander Baumann is making his first appearance at Worlds. With two top-5s in nine events (not counting the German Championships), they’re not on anyone’s radar.

Order of Merit, total: 81st
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 80th
Best finish in 2015-16: 5th, German Masters and Karuizawa International (and 1st, German Championships)

RUSSIA: Alexey Stukalskiy throws the last stones, but Andrey Drozdov is the skip. Drozdov, still just 28, made it to Worlds in 2013 and skipped on home ice at the 2014 Olympics. Still an emerging curling nation, they’ve been a non-factor in most events this season.

Order of Merit, total: 88th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 87th
Best finish in 2015-16: 3rd, Thompson Curling Challenge

NOTABLE HEAD-TO-HEAD EVENTS

Baden Masters, Aug. 28-30: Edin (Sweden) 1st, Brewster (Scotland) 2nd, Michel (Swiss) 3rd, Ulsrud (Norway) 3rd, Drozdov (Russia) 9th, Baumann (Germany) 13th

GSOC Tour Challenge Tier 1, Sept. 8-13: Koe (Canada) 1st, Shuster (USA) 3rd, Edin (Sweden) 9th

Point Optical Classic, Sept. 25-28: Shuster (USA) 5th, Edin (Sweden) 5th, Michel (Swiss) 11th, Kim (South Korea) 15th, Morozumi (Japan) 15th

Swiss Cup Basel, Oct. 2-4: Michel (Swiss) 5th, Stjerne (Denmark) 5th, Ulsrud (Norway) 9th, Drozdov (Russia) 11th, Baumann (Germany) 17th, Kauste (Finland) 17th, Brewster (Scotland) 23rd

Canad Inns Men’s Classic, Oct. 16-19: Koe (Canada) 2nd, Morozumi (Japan) 5th, Edin (Sweden) 9th, Shuster (USA) 12th

Curling Masters Champery, Oct. 22-25: Brewster (Scotland) 5th, Baumann (Germany) 10th, Kauste (Finland) 10th, Drozdov (Russia) 12th

Masters of Curling, Oct. 27-Nov. 1: Koe (Canada) 3rd, Edin (Sweden) 5th, Ulsrud (Norway) 10th

The National, Nov. 10-15: Koe (Canada) 5th, Ulsrud (Norway) 5th, Edin (Sweden) 9th, Michel (Swiss) 10th

EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS, Nov. 19-28: Edin (Sweden) 1st, Ulsrud (Norway) 3rd, Kauste (Finland) 4th, Stjerne (Denmark) 5th, Drozdov (Russia) 9th

Meridian Canadian Open, Dec. 8-13: Koe (Canada) 3rd, Edin (Sweden) 5th, Shuster (USA) 12th

Karuizawa International, Dec. 17-20: Edin (Sweden) 3rd, Kim (South Korea) 3rd, Baumann (Germany) 5th, Morozumi (Japan) 5th

Perth (Scotland) Masters, Jan. 7-10: Koe (Canada) 1st, Ulsrud (Norway) 2nd, Michel (Switzerland) 3rd, Brewster (Scotland) 5th, Drozdov (Russia) 5th, Edin (Sweden) 9th, Kauste (Finland) 17th, Stjerne (Denmark) 17th, Baumann (Germany) 23rd

German Masters, Jan. 21-24: Kim (Korea) 2nd, Michel (Swiss) 3rd, Edin (Sweden) 3rd, Kauste (Finland) 5th, Baumann (Germany) 5th, Stjerne (Denmark) 9th, Brewster (Scotland) 14th, Drozdov (Russia) 14th

Aberdeen International, March 25-27: Brewster (Scotland) 2nd, Ulsrud (Norway) 3rd, Kauste (Finland) 5th, Shuster (USA) 5th, Drozdov (Russia) 10th, Baumann (Germany) 10th

PREDICTIONS

  1. Canada
  2. Sweden
  3. Scotland
  4. Switzerland
  5. Norway
  6. USA
  7. Finland
  8. South Korea
  9. Japan
  10. Russia
  11. Germany
  12. Denmark
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