More evidence needed

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:26 AM ET

Manitoba's pre-eminent men's curlers may as well have been asking Randy Dutiaume what he's done for us lately.

He put in a dominant performance in the provincial championship and earned a berth in the national semifinal last year, and yet Dutiaume is only the fourth seed for the 2006 Safeway Select.

The curlers themselves vote on the seeding for the Select (Feb. 8-12 in Steinbach), and that shows some people think Dutiaume's miraculous run a year ago was a fluke.

"Randy Dutiaume is going to have to show us something," said Pat Spiring, third for Valour Road's Dave Boehmer, who is one of three skips seeded ahead of Dutiaume, at No. 2.

"His team is going to have to get on that roll they were on last year, and from what I've seen they haven't got there yet."

The top seed this year is Charleswood's Jeff Stoughton, just as it has been every time the former world champion has played in the Select in recent memory. There is no question that his team of Jon Mead, Garry Vandenberghe and Steve Gould is the best in Manitoba and one of the best in the world.

However, Stoughton hasn't won a Select since 2000 and had to step aside the last two years while "club curlers" like Dutiaume and Brent Scales represented Manitoba at the Brier.

That being said, Stoughton was the runner-up in the Olympic trials and won the prestigious BDO Canadian Open.

"Jeff Stoughton's team is absolutely the class of the field," said Dutiaume, who curls out of Valour Road. "They've got a resume to die for. When you have a world-class team like Jeff Stoughton, who is one of the best pure shooters in the game, how can you not rank him No. 1?"

The other teams ahead of Dutiaume don't have quite the same credentials.

Boehmer is a great World Curling Tour player who has had very little success at the provincial level. Valour Road's Fry was runner-up to Dutiaume a year ago at the Select and has played very well on the cash circuit this season.

"I don't disagree with the seeds," said Dutiaume, who attributes his team's ranking to it's less-than-stellar performance so far this season.

"As far as our team, what doesn't break you makes you stronger, and our guys are going to be ready to play. This is what we have been focusing on all year long."

Dutiaume even managed to be gracious about his team's placing.

"I'm just pickled as punch, because we were seeded ninth last year, and we moved up five spaces. I don't think you can focus on the seed or the number. If you do, you are going to be off your game and somebody is going to be whipping your arse."

Boehmer is widely considered the best Manitoba skip never to win a major, but most people expect it to come sooner rather than later.

One of the surprises of yesterday's seeding announcement was the presence of Virden's Graham Freeman at No. 5. His team heads into Steinbach on a roll after winning the Manitoba Curling Tour championship and its zone in successive weeks.

They've been turning heads all year, however, as evidenced by the recent invitation they received to a Grand Slam event in St. John's, N.L.

"Normally, we kind of float under the radar but it doesn't look like it's that way anymore," said Freeman's third Scott Ramsay.


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