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Your! Call: Which men's rink is now the favourite for 2018?

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Ryan Horne, TSN.ca
4/22/2014 6:34:34 PM
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The curling landscape shifted dramatically over the last month of the 2013-2014 season.

When Kevin Martin and Jennifer Jones won the season-ending Players' Championship, many rinks – especially on the men's side – had played their last game together. A legend retired, a skip left his Brier-winning team, old friends reunited and the best stayed together.

With this being an Olympic year, many curlers felt it was necessary to join a new squad at season's end in order to have a better shot at competing in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

With all the changes, which rink do you think is the favourite going into next season and beyond?

Let's start from the beginning.

Going into the men's world championships in Beijing, China earlier this month, Canadian champion Kevin Koe announced that he was leaving his team to join a new rink next season, comprised of Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert from Martin's team as well as Brent Laing from Glenn Howard's rink.

This group is an interesting one.

They definitely have a lot of experience as Kennedy and Hebert won Olympic gold with Martin back in 2010, while Laing captured world titles as Howard's second in 2007 and 2012. Laing and Hebert will remain in their familiar positions, but Kennedy will be bumped up to third stones after spending the last 11 years throwing in the two hole. Is Koe the favourite despite a third who has never played the position professionally?

As a result of his team finding new homes and – more importantly – a lack of desire to devote four years to an Olympic run, curling legend Kevin Martin retired at season's end. Martin played 26 seasons, racking up four Briers, one world championship and, of course, Olympic gold in 2010.

Pat Simmons, Carter Rycroft and Nolan Thiessen will return to the Brier in 2015 as Team Canada after winning the national championship this season with Koe at the helm. With Koe jumping ship, the threesome were able to convince John Morris to join them as their skip. Morris had previously skipped Jim Cotter, Tyrel Griffith and Rick Sawatsky to the finals at the 2014 Brier where they lost to Koe.
 
The 35-year-old, who had planned to take a year off from curling unless a good opportunity presented itself, will play a limited schedule due to work commitments next season. He's a two-time Brier champion (2008, 2009), a world champion (2008) and an Olympic champion (2010). Will Morris be able to keep this team back at the same level?

Another veteran skip on the Grand Slam circuit also made news recently. Glenn Howard, 51, will reunite with an old friend next year, as Richard Hart will come out of retirement to play third. The pair were able to capture a Brier and world championship together back in 2007 before Hart decided to leave the game in 2011. Howard is also bringing in Jon Mead to replace Laing at second after he played third for Jeff Stoughton's rink for the past five seasons. Craig Savill will remain the team's lead. After a disappointing year for Howard, will there be a revival of past success with these changes in 2014-2015?

Then there is Jeff Stoughton, who had his entire team leave him this season. Mead went to Howard, Mark Nichols left to throw third stones for Brad Gushue (they won Olympic gold in 2006 together) and Reid Carruthers will skip his own squad next year. With Morris taking the Team Canada position, Stoughton had to start from scratch. According to the Winnipeg Free Press, the 50-year-olds' new rink will be comprised of Rob Fowler at third, Alex Forrest at second and Connor Njegovan at lead. Can Stoughton surprise some people with this new group?

One of the few teams that is staying pat is Brad Jacobs' Sault Ste. Marie rink. The foursome is coming back for another shot at Olympic glory. Will they continue to roll or will an Olympic hangover set in after reaching the top of the sport at such a young age?

As seen above, Gushue will have a new/old look next year. Does he have what it takes to get back to the top of the sport with the move?

Then there's a few under-the-radar teams that may surprise some people. Is there a chance Mike McEwen, who finished atop the money standings this season, Jim Cotter, John Epping or Steve Laycock could make some noise on the curling circuit?

It should be an interesting season of rock throwing next winter.

With all the changes, which rink do you think is the favourite as we prepare for another run at Olympic gold?

As always, it's Your! Call.

Kevin Koe  (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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