It's not the anyone-can-win field that we have in the ladies' event, but the men's competition at the 2015 Grand Prix Final this week will be all about the latest advance in the quad era. Two weeks ago, Yuzuru Hanyu put down the five-quad challenge, and as of this point, only two other men in this field can match that. But just looking at the six guys here, there could be as many as 25 quads attempted in Barcelona with in a matter of 90 minutes of competition. It's really going to be an incredible showcase of difficult jumps and incredible skating, with each guy giving you a very different style.
Rocker Predictions: 2015 Grand Prix Final
Full schedule #GPFBarcelona
GOLD Yuzuru Hanyu JPN - Can the new world record holder do it again? You have to believe that, after such a career-defining performance at NHK Trophy (and I say "career-defining" knowing full well that I'm not talking about his Olympic gold medal), there's gotta be some sort of letdown. So will he have another 300+ competition? I'm putting my money on "no." But he doesn't need 300 to win in Barcelona. It's going to be an interesting competition for Hanyu, as he goes up against skaters who do have the goods to challenge him if he makes a couple of mistakes. If he's clean, he's unbeatable. But to be clean twice in two competitions with that much technical difficulty is to be superhuman.
SILVER Shoma Uno JPN - The best knees in the competition, Shoma Uno has certainly announced himself in his debut senior season. But it hasn't been without its difficulties. He started off with a head-scratching fifth at U.S. Classic, after which he admitted that he was not at all comfortable in the first competition of his first full senior season. But it got a whole lot better - a silver at Skate America and then a clean short that propelled him to the lead before the competition was cut short at Trophee Eric Bompard. If everyone is clean, Uno is fourth-best, but I'm counting on the reliability of his jumps to get him on the podium this week.
BRONZE Javier Fernandez ESP - How quickly we forget - and then remember - that Javier Fernandez and Yuzuru Hanyu train together under Brian Orser. And frankly, Fernandez was ready to do that five-quad challenge years ago, but he's never put the second quad in his short program. But after Hanyu's NHK, it may be time for Fernandez to make that debut. What will keep Fernandez from being close to Hanyu is his inability to really ever put together a clean free skate. If it's not a quad it's some silly triple jump. Two clean programs this week - at home, no less - will be quite a coup for Fernandez, and that could very well put him in gold medal territory, especially with the much stronger all-around programs he is armed with this season.
4. Patrick Chan CAN - My prediction for Patrick Chan to be off the podium is a function of base value and potential inconsistency. That said, this prediction could blow up in my face. We saw at Skate Canada that Chan can put up huge numbers even with just one quad and one triple axel in his free skate. But we also saw at Skate Canada, and at Trophee Eric Bompard, that it's entirely possible that he's still not back at a level of consistency that he's used to. What we didn't get to see in Bordeaux was whether or not the second quad in his free skate had returned. At this point, a clean Chan can't beat a clean Hanyu, with Hanyu now having a significant base value advantage in both the short (quad sal vs. triple lutz) and the free (three quads and two triple axels vs. one/two quads and one triple axel).
5. Boyang Jin CHN - Technically, Boyang Jin has the most jam-packed program of anyone here, and we've talked plenty about that this season. And while we will all marvel at his explosive jumps once again this week, this is the first time that he will be up against such a density of fantastic skaters. And it'll be here where the differential in components will just be amplified, and his component marks will just not be nearly as wow-factor-inflated as they were, at least relatively speaking. That said, he can definitely be in medal contention after the short - a clean program gets him into the 90s, which is nothing to sneeze at. But the free skate is where the regression to the mean will happen.
6. Daisuke Murakami JPN - Bronze at Skate Canada, and then a third-place short program at Bompard, Daisuke Murakami has established himself as the solid #3 in the Japanese men pecking order. He just doesn't have the clout of the top four, nor does he have the difference-making jumps of Jin, to have a decent probability of finishing inside the top four. But after six seasons of being in the shadows of his more decorated Japanese teammates, he's starting to make a name for himself by qualifying for his first Grand Prix Final. You better believe he'll give it all he's got.