Koe not resting on laurels

CON GRIWKOWSKY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:37 AM ET

Looking at it one way, Kevin Koe's team really could have skipped this weekend's $65,200 Canada Cup qualifier at the Saville Centre.

As the winner of the 2008 Canada Cup in Kamloops, Koe is already in as defending champion when the $100,000 event shifts eastward to Yorkton, Sask., March 18-22.

Koe's Edmonton-based foursome was one of three teams on the World Curling Tour to break the $100,000 barrier last season, behind Kevin Martin and Glenn Howard.

Those teams have also prequalified for Yorkton -- Martin as Brier champ and Howard as last season's Players Champion.

Next weekend, Koe and Martin will be the cornerstone squads when Team North America takes on Team World at the Continental Cup in Camrose.

You could make a case that both teams are playing this weekend as a warmup for that event and, considering the event is being held in their hometowns, why not chuck a few bricks?

That would be missing the real reason.

"There's huge points at this event," said Blake MacDonald, the talented last-rock thrower for Koe. "There's as many points as at a Grand Slam event. There's a lot on the line."

The biggest prize would be one of the two remaining bye spots straight to the 2009 Olympic Trials at Rexall Place almost exactly a year from now.

Martin and Howard are already in, while Koe and Randy Ferbey still have the inside track as teams jockey for position until April, when the race is decided.

"It's a real grind to stay in front," said MacDonald.

Curling's focus has shifted radically since it regained its status as an Olympic medal sport.

The traditionalist in Ferbey longs for the days when it was all pretty clear-cut.

"There was a time when all that mattered was the amount of dollars that you won," Ferbey said in Wainwright last month after clinching a bye spot at the 2009 provincials.

"Then, the teams that made the most money over the season would play for the championship. Now, you've got so many different events and all these points systems that even I have a hard time figuring it out."

This weekend's event is Ferbey's 10th straight, a choice he made trying to nail down the Alberta Tour bye.

Even though he's leapfrogged Koe into the No. 3 spot on the three-year Canadian Teams Ranking System list, one of the best ways to assure a bye spot, there's a downside to all of Ferbey's hard work.

Only the top 10 results are eligible per season and Ferbey is already there with four months left in the season, meaning any future improvement would be tough.

"I know they've passed us, but they've maxed out," said MacDonald.

"We just haven't played as much as we normally do. We still have four events we can count."

Earlier this year, Koe lost the final of the first Grand Slam event to Glenn Howard. Until that point, points were tough to come by. The team is No. 7 on this year's CTRS list.

"We had a bit of a slow start," said MacDonald right after that event. "It's been a struggle."

Like last weekend, when the team was shut out at the Grand Slam event in Quebec.

"We were one win away from the playoffs," said MacDonald.

"We were up on Jeff Stoughton by three and lost. That's the first time in two and a half years that happened."

Still, the team knows it has a bunch of wiggle room left.

After this weekend, there's two more Slams, including the Players Championship, a trip to Scotland in the new year, a Brier run, and the Canada Cup still to come.

There were plenty of expectations the team had after hitting the Top 3 last season.

"It's easy to expect success," said MacDonald.

"But the reality is there's a lot of good teams out there who are trying to do the same thing.

"For us, we're not worried about it at all. There's a lot of chances to collect more points."


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