Maybe Jones was right to dump Cathy O

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:00 PM ET

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — We can debate the personal aspect of it all we want. Question the way it was handled, too.

But it’s hard to argue with the pure, hack-to-hack results of Jennifer Jones’ controversial move to go younger by dumping Cathy Overton-Clapham in favour of Kaitlyn Lawes.

If Jones’ three-time defending champion Team Canada rink would have tripped all over the hog line here this week, the chant would have risen from coast to coast: “Told you so — no Cathy O.”

But if there have been any hiccups from Jones, Lawes, Jill Officer and Dawn Askin, they’ve come in the beer hall connected to the Charlottetown Civic Centre.

A steadily upward trending 8-3 record in the round robin, a gut-check win over first-place Saskatchewan in Friday’s one-two game and a berth in Sunday’s final, where they’ll be heavily favoured to win a fourth straight crown — it’s been vintage Jones and Co. the whole week.

Not only have the three returning members of Team Canada been rock-solid, leading their positions in shooting percentage, but so has the new kid in the hack: Lawes led the field at 81%.

Call it luck, destiny or some weird coincidence, but Jones replaced the top-shooting third at the 2010 Tournament of Hearts with the top-shooting third of the 2011 Tournament of Hearts.

“We knew she was a great player,” Jones said, Saturday. “It’s more just trying to find that whole team dynamic. And it was the easiest thing in the world.”

Just 22, Lawes is no stranger to big games, albeit at the junior level, where she won back-to-back Canadian titles in 2008-09.

But this is a whole different kettle of seafood, and Lawes knows it. Her stomach won’t let her forget.

“I’m so excited,” the University of Manitoba student said, admitting she was shaking right after the playoff win over Saskatchewan. “You dream of playing in the Scotts as a kid. I get a little bit of butterflies in my stomach, but I like that feeling. I hope they’re there (Sunday). If I’m not nervous, there must be something wrong.”

There’s been very little wrong with Lawes’ game. Oh, she’s messed up here and there. Took her own rock out once or twice in the Saskatchewan game.

But get rattled? Forget it.

“You want to try and make everything for your skip. You don’t want to leave her in a pickle,” Lawes said. “You’ve got to park it. If I was struggling a little bit in a game, I would still come through with some of the bigger shots at the right time. That’s really been important.”

As much for her own mindset as anything, I’m guessing.

Lawes has been so even keel Jones doesn’t expect to have to settle her down going into Sunday’s final.

“She’s got a good head on her shoulders,” the skip said. “She’s got lots of experience playing in big games at the junior level. We’re calming. We’re definitely a calm team. We don’t get too excited, and maybe that helps. But she’s a pretty calm individual.”

Can’t imagine she’ll be calm when she gets under those TV lights, goes through that hack routine of hers and throws that first rock with a national championship on the line.

But if Lawes has proven one thing, it’s that the big stage doesn’t automatically affect her play.

And perhaps she’s proven another, too.

That those who said Jones would pay a big price by getting rid of a talent like Cathy O were wrong. At least, if your currency of choice is wins and losses.

“People are still always going to talk,” Lawes said. “If it changes people’s opinions, that’s great.”

One more win, and I don’t know how it can’t.

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca


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