With the end of another Olympics cycle, plenty of lineup changes were expected in the curling world.
Saskatchewan’s Pat Simmons proved to be no exception.
Simmons unveiled his new lineup for the September Shootout at the Saville Centre and so far, so good.
Gone is a six-year relationship with third Jeff Sharp, who made four Brier appearances with Simmons during their run between 2005-08. Also shuffled out is second Gerry Adam, who joined the team four years ago.
Lead Steve Laycock has taken over at third with a rebuilt front end of Brennen Jones and Dallas Muyers.
“It was time for us,” said Simmons, a Moose Jaw chiropractor. “Gerry was looking at slowing down. That team had run its course. We had some good years and some success.”
Simmons has been a consistent player on the World Curling Tour this past decade, and had been a regular top-10 performer until it hit a flat spot after the 2008 Brier appearance.
“Two years ago was just awful from start to finish,” said Simmons. “Last year was a very good year for us. We qualified in just about everything and played quite well other than being unable to get back to the Brier.
“It was just that one bad year leading up to the trials. We rebounded nice to get to the pre-trials and made some money along the way.”
The rest of the season made up for a disappointing three-win performance at the trials, an outing that Simmons is still convinced did not reflect how well the team was playing.
“We played pretty well,” said Simmons. “We were a couple of shots away from winning another couple of games. I wasn’t overly disappointed. It wasn’t that we played bad, but the teams were so darned good there.”
Simmons could not have asked for a better start with his new lineup.
The team roared out of the gate, winning its first four games and has qualified for a spot in Sunday’s playoff round.
Simmons won this bonspiel in 2007 and lost the final to Ted Appelman in 2008.
“We’ve always done well here, that’s why we keep coming back,” said Simmons, who lost a semi in 2009. “The ice is always great here. It’s always been a good start to your year here.”
This year is no exception. Any time a new lineup can put together an early-season win streak and build its chemistry makes it that much easier to keep it going.
“We’re really enjoying things,” said Simmons. “Everybody’s fit into their roles really nicely. The young guys are excited and that keeps us excited.
“Early success always makes things easier. Curling is very much a momentum game. A slow start along the way and sometimes you get into a rut later. So far, things are going well and hopefully, it can continue.”
EXTRA ENDS: Sharp is now throwing third rocks for Carl deConink Smith, one of two Saskatchewan-based teams in the field ...