Bonjour mes amis and the rest of you lot. In the last two posts Juniors and Masters were covered and much like finals Sunday we will now concentrate on the three big divisions. To recap the rules: There are a few rules to this game so as to provide maximum enjoyment for the reader:
- I must make a prediction in every division for the top four.
- I cannot say it’s too close to call.
- If, in my mind, there is a tie then I must do my best to antagonize a local team (usually Southern Ontario).
- I must select a Dark Horse for each division.
Each year there seem to be more teams vying for the 16 bids to Nationals and this year there will be 29 of them attempting to prove that they can have less fun than the rest. A cryptic statement? Perhaps. I’ve watched quite a bit of Ultimate this year and many teams seem to have forgotten how much fun this game can be. Toronto teams in particular seem to have adopted an attitude formerly reserved by Ottawa Open teams. Teams are constantly angry with themselves and with players openly badmouthing their teammates. Hopefully they turn things around but I suspect not.
The most dominant force in Canadian Mixed Ultimate hails from Quebec in La belle province. ONYX are the current CUC title holders and managed that feat after finishing second at WUCC in Prague. They are not a team to be taken lightly especially in light of a title they are amongst favourites for. However, there is a worthy challenger in their neighbourhood. Odyssée from Montreal (and supported by AUM) is, in my eyes, the current favourite in a head to head between the two. Composed of Open, Women’s, and Mixed players they have a powerhouse team that is extremely dangerous in the eyes of many. In fact, they’re widely considered to be the team to beat at CUC this year. The other usually strong Quebec team, RIP, has been weakened by an exodus of members to Odyssée and are not a factor in the top four.
I apologize as I don’t know too much about Alberta or the Prairie regions but with only ARG! attending from Alberta to the Prairies they are great unknowns.
What about Ontario then? Doom and gloom…kind of! Some of the younger members of Phoenix have formed Trainwreck as the A team out of Ottawa. Playing with a flair and abandon that makes Ultimate fun to watch they have played well for a team as young. They do lack a strong lady presence but the chemistry amongst the gents more than makes up for the awkwardness in the mens relationships to the women. Toronto then? Union Ultimate formed from a merger of MONSTER, Tundra, and Big Hammers with all three teams contributing significantly (this has resulted in Zen becoming stronger). While on paper they look goods the reality reminds me of the attitude Snipe had a few years ago. Snipe was incredibly talented but melted due to team dynamics and strong personalities. Union may not have team dynamics to start with but they also lack chemistry. There is a strong older leadership contingent but they are too quiet and it’s obvious that there are some hot heads on the team. In my opinion they may have a tough time getting into the top four.
So who’s left? Who can challenge the dominant teams from the east? From the west there is one shinning light, a light that has held aloft the trophy of CUC and World’s more than once, a team that the locals discounted as a bunch of kids, that team is Team Fisher Price (TFP). I have it on good authority that the roster contains some big names in VUL as well as some of the classic TFP players of yesteryear. Will they have the chemistry? Yes. Do they have the skill? Yes. Will they be strong enough to take on Quebec? That is the big unknown. However, as I’ve demonstrated time and again, you don’t have to have skill, strength, or speed to play Ultimate well (you just need to be able to heckle and be incredibly good looking). Ontario teams such as MuD have weakened considerably with the loss of their top ladies to injury and apathy. Mayhem has folded as their arch-rivals, MONSTER, called it quits before them.
To look at other challengers you need to look further east: Spawn. Finishing a surprising third in Sherbrooke they’re cautiously optimistic this year. They know the challenges that lie ahead but they’re no longer able to surprise teams out the gate like they did last year. Strong personalities may also may impede them as well. I cannot say much more as most information was coerced with the assistance of alcohol. I would not be surprised to see them top four again.
Dark Horse: There is one serious wildcard in the mix. Mayhem may have folded but their players still want to play. PRODiGY has formed with the same core of people but had many of their older and stronger women return. Their existing young players have gained in skill significantly and the team is now bursting at the seams with players right up to capacity. I have seen Mayhem go toe to toe with every great team out there only to fold and lose their lead one or two points from victory. They too have it in them to be the best on any given day and if there is one team that can ruin the party it is PRODiGY.
Hello Ladies, look at the Capitals, now look at yourselves, now back to the Capitals, do you have what it takes to beat them? Are you Traffic? Then no.
I truly believe that the Capitals are amongst the top teams in the world; and top doesn’t mean top 10. They are amongst the top four teams in the world right now. As of right now it’s SF Bay area, Japan, Capitals, and Seattle. They are an elite team of superstars that are efficient, well managed, and know they’re the best. It would be altogether easy to say they’re unbeatable in Canada but they’re not.
Traffic from Vancouver has played some strong games recently. They finished third at Solstice recently and also lost narrowly to Seattle Riot 15-14. However, they fell quite hard against Fury (15-5) before recovering against Underground, 14-10. They are one of the best teams out of the West in North America and they have the capability to beat Capitals. However, Capitals are more than capable of beating them and more consistently.
In many ways this does become a competition to see who will face Capitals in the finals. Traffic is the most likely but there are challengers out of the east and they’re quite a group. Much like in Masters the field has been levelled with each playing at a similar level. From Montreal Storm (current CUC title holder) has lost a few players to the nouveau Mixed team but remains quite powerful. From Ottawa Stella has built their program out after losing players to Capitals and now are also able to challenge teams in the region. Lotus (or imLotus as they are sometimes known) has weakened significantly and team dynamics are taking a serious toll on their ability to focus. Finally we have PPF who are managing to walk the fine line between conscious and capable drunkenness and waking up in a dumpster in the morning behind a Montreal bagel house with great success.
Each and every team that I’ve listed has the chance on any given day to finish second. Their chance to finish first relies heavily upon hitting the exact formula against the Capitals. So far Traffic has come the closest and has the most experience despite the vast distance between the teams. It’s not hard to call first but it is tough to call the rest:
Dark Horse: PPF is placed as fourth on the list but they have the ability to take on both the teams above. They also have the ability to not make Nationals. Ontario is quite tough this year given how close the teams are.
Finally to the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The moment when I call GOAT to win CUC 2011, then lead Canada to the World’s title, then win the Solar tournament before winning the Milky Way cup against those damn Betelgeusians and their damn emo music. Actually, let’s be serious, Betelgeuse’s Ultimate team has the same chance as Firebird making it to Nationals, slim to none.
Everybody fully expects a GOAT and Furious final. In 2007 I was privileged enough to watch from the sidelines as two titans battles in a light rain for the most prestigious title in Canadian Ultimate. This year I expect nothing less; a few weeks ago it may have been something more but it is quite evident now that only those two teams have a shot at the finals. Who stands in their way?
From the West Blackfish poses little threat to the big two but plenty to any that underestimate them. Some of the older players have moved on but they could return to 2009 form where they had the speed and talent to sit comfortably in the top eight. Invictus may not return but The Ghosts from Alberta may be their replacements. Helmed by Tierney Fitzgerald (teammate from Moondoggies who threw the Championship winning pass to Phil Watanabe in Sherbrooke last year) they’ve picked up some strong players and will make quite some noise this time around.
Moving further east we land in Winnipeg and question how General Strike will do. Strike have lost Mark Lloyd to GOAT and need to fill that presence. Strike also have too short a roster to play as many big teams as they’ll face this year. They have quite a bit of talent that can handle the top teams, just not in enough bodies.
Ontario is an interesting bag this year. This weekend nine teams will play for seven bids to CUC which leaves lots of room for most anybody except that isn’t the case this year. Phoenix is weaker than usual with talent having moved to Trainwreck. The Toronto system faced a mutiny and most of the Grand Trunk players from last year decided that if they couldn’t play on GOAT they’d make their own team; Feed the Geese is that team. Will there be repercussions for the FtG players? Possibly but that’s a whole another mess. The result is a weaker GT but not as weak as people think it is. The ROY players that moved up are talented and are taking the opportunity to show that they learned well and are team players. ROY itself is almost brand new and is not the team that Firebird knew last year. Firebird is an interesting conundrum. They lost to ROY last year at Regionals and had to defeat Too Bad. Too Bad this year is quite strong and is expected to make it to Nationals with little trouble. ROY is not expected to make CUC and that leaves GT and Firebird vying for the last spot. NADS from North Bay are also in the mix but are strong enough to make it though at this time. Ontario Regionals will be interesting and you’ll get a recap after the date as I’ll be covering it.
Let’s keep going east! Quebec will produce Mephisto, Demon, and likely Bloody Gary as the top teams in Ottawa. Bloody Gary can be surprising resilient and their defensive style makes offense a grind if you don’t catch on early enough. Demon is surprisingly strong and I look forward to seeing the upsets at CUC that they create. Mephisto has been winning a number of big tournaments this season but they’ve lost many of their top players to top teams in Canada.
Further east we end with Red Circus and the treasonous Newfoundland Liberation Army. Both teams will battle to get into the top eight and will continue to develop their programs. NFLA’s biggest obstacle is bad habits of grizzled veterans. It’s the same attitude the Toronto Mixed team players have; you may be the best in your small pond but that’s meaningless when you get beat by the weak half of a team from Quebec.
Looking back I think I forgot one important team: Maverick. Earlier this season I would have called Maverick for an easy top four. Injuries and apathy have taken their toll as a rather rough season has progressed. I still believe that if they pull together they can make great things happen but not as strongly as I believed that earlier in the season. The same could be said for Feed the Geese which showed quite a bit of promise but now reveal themselves to be the GT of last year that managed to convince a few nice guys to join them.
How does one select between GOAT and Furious then? It’s too close to call. However, this is a good opportunity to antagonize one group of friends and that is in essence a form of heckling, which is one of the pillars of Ultimate.
- The Ghosts
I do believe Furious has the edge. They have undergone transition in the last few years with many of the older players stepping away at the right time. GOAT is just starting to undergo transition which leaves them in a slightly precarious state. Both teams have added stars to their teams and both teams have an equal chance. I had to pick one (rules are rules) and I believe that Furious has played tougher opponents in the last year than GOAT. I think the year round training has better conditioned Furious and the transition phase that GOAT is undergoing will give Furious the edge.
Dark Horse: General Strike continues to be a force to be reckoned with. Their top line will force the top teams to play their best and on a Saturday morning that can result in unnecessary energy expenditure. Strike should not be taken lightly.
So there you have it. My top four lists are done. I’ve told five teams that I think they’re winners and everybody else that they have no chance, zilch. I look forward to nasty emails and egg on my face when all of my predictions are wrong.
Good luck this weekend to all those participating in Regionals.