HALIFAX — Pat Simmons has been in fine form since replacing John Morris as skip earlier this month.
Simmons guided the Canadian team to victory at the Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary and has picked up where he left off at the Ford world men’s curling championship. The host rink opened with an impressive 11-10 victory over the U.S. on Saturday night and added two more victories Sunday to improve to 3-0.
“He’s been amazing, just like he was in the Brier,” Morris said. “He’s kept it up, which is awesome to see and he’s a great leader. He’s really easy to play for. He just seems more comfortable in that skip role than that third role and vice-versa for me.”
Simmons defeated China’s Jialiang Zang 7-4 on Sunday afternoon and topped Sweden’s Niklas Edin 9-6 in the evening at Scotiabank Centre. That left the Canadian team of Simmons, Morris, Carter Rycroft and Nolan Thiessen alone in first place after five draws.
“The longer we stay with that bagel in the loss column, the better,” Thiessen said.
The Morris-Simmons positional change was a big story at the national championship and it’s still a talking point at the world playdowns.
The host broadcaster aired a feature segment dubbed “The Switch” over the weekend. The Eye Opener newspaper gave the topic some ink Sunday, but used a different approach.
The headline “Should Have Called Martin” appeared above a picture of Kevin Martin, who teamed with Morris to win Olympic gold five years ago. A column in the Curling Canada publication, which is distributed on site at the arena, included an interview with the retired skip.
In the piece, Martin suggested Morris didn’t have the right personality to skip and is a much better fit as a third. Morris said he saw the headline but didn’t read the story.
“Kevin and I, to be honest with you, we don’t have a bad relationship,” Morris said. “We’re not the best of friends but it’s not like we don’t like each other. We did some great things together and we have a good mutual respect that way.”
Morris had heard critical comments in the past about his skipping ability, but tried not to pay attention to it. It’s a rather moot point at this juncture anyway, given the positional changes.
After a limited schedule this season, a 2-3 start at the Brier was enough for Morris to demote himself and move Simmons into the skip role. The team has thrived ever since.
“We’re proving right now, especially with Pat, he’s a better skip than I think he was a third,” Morris said.
Defending champion Thomas Ulsrud of Norway edged Russia’s Evgeny Arkhipov 7-6 in an extra end to improve to 2-1. Norway was joined by Switzerland, Italy, the Czech Republic and Japan in a tie for second place.
Sweden, China, Russia, the U.S., and Finland were next at 1-2 and Scotland was the lone winless rink at 0-3.
Canada will play the Czech Republic and Russia on Monday. Round-robin play continues through Thursday.
“A lot of the game and success for teams has to do with dynamics,” Morris said. “It’s something that we have. We have a great dynamic. Our team has dealt with a lot this year and found ways to win. I find creating a story like that just to create a buzz and to create some negative thought, it just doesn’t jive with me.
“I wasn’t a big fan and same thing with the rest of my team. We’re just going to focus on how we’ve been doing well.”
Simmons handled skipping duties on a different team for years before moving to third five years ago. He has embraced the return to skip and is quite comfortable throwing last stones.
Morris left Martin’s rink two years ago after a successful seven-year run that included national, world and Olympic titles. A message left with Martin, who retired last year, wasn’t immediately returned.
Morris was less than pleased with the author of the column, saying he probably won’t talk to him again at this tournament or for the rest of his career.
He wants to concentrate on positive things and won’t be reading any press clippings.
“We’re not focusing on that stuff this week,” he said. “We’re focusing on winning the world championship, seafood, and maybe a beer or two at the Lower Deck. That’s about it.”