We are now at the halfway mark in the 2015 Grand Prix Series, and as Trophee Eric Bompard is about to begin, the men's event is a perfect confluence of veterans and up-and-comers. World junior champ Shoma Uno faces off with Olympic silver medalist Patrick Chan, knowing full well that he defeated Chan at the more exhibition-y Japan Open to start the season. Let's have a look at the men's event, which is shaping up to be an exciting competition.
Rocker predictions: 2015 Trophee Eric Bompard
GOLD Patrick Chan CAN - How much Kostnering is Patrick Chan going to continue to do this season? And yes, I just made up a verb. But remember when Carolina Kostner changed her strategy a few years ago and watered down her programs to get consistency? Chan is doing something similar in his comeback season so far. At both Japan Open and Skate Canada, he definitely watered down his free skate (one quad instead of two), but he's likely not doing it for consistency reasons, rather as a way to ramp back up after not competing last season.
But that strategy worked brilliantly at Skate Canada, where he scored in the 190s with a clean one-quad FS and won it over Yuzuru Hanyu's three-quad FS with mistakes. That said, he reshuffled the jump order that he had at Japan Open to include a triple toe as his third pass, signaling that the second quad is going to be back this season. I'm guessing we'll see that second quad at Bompard. And the way he skated a couple of weeks ago, he's definitely the favorite again to pick up this title.
SILVER Shoma Uno JPN - Silver at Skate America, Shoma Uno definitely has a realistic chance at challenging Chan for the title. He beat Chan and won Japan Open with a brilliant free skate, and if not for a fall in the short at Skate America, he would've won there too. He seems to be settling into his new role as one of the best on the senior level after some early season jitters, and Trophee Eric Bompard might be the time for him to really deliver a full confident competition.
BRONZE Max Aaron USA - Former U.S. champion Max Aaron's transformation brought him all the way to the top of the podium at Skate America, after he skated two fantastic programs to win his first GP. And he's got a chance to book his ticket to Barcelona for the Final this week. What will be interesting to see is 1) if he will continue to bring strong, confident, clean programs to the table, and 2) if he does skate cleanly, how much higher will his PCS be? Aaron really has the chance to position himself really well for the second half of the season if he can be solid in Bordeaux this week.
4. Daisuke Murakami JPN - Bronze at Skate Canada, Daisuke Murakami is the fourth skater who has a very realistic shot at the podium. He's been nice and consistent so far this season, but - and I sound like a broken record - he's just not as flashy as the three I've put above him. But slow and steady may win the podium race this week, especially if one of the top guys make mistakes.
5. Maxim Kovtun RUS - With a win at Mordovian Ornament to start his season, there is something of a salvage element to Maxim Kovtun this year. Once looking like the next Russian men's star, inconsistency got in the way late last season, as he dropped to seventh at Worlds after a fourth the year before. He's a bit under the radar at TEB only because of the inconsistency he's shown. But those quads can certainly put him in the running.
6. Alexander Petrov RUS - Finishing sixth at Skate Canada among that ridiculous great final group of free skates was quite a feat for Petrov, especially since he doesn't have a quad in either of his programs right now. But the consistency that he has will definitely put him right in the mix again this week. It won't be podium-worthy, but it will certainly be good enough to beat a few others who have bigger tricks planned.
7. Chafik Besseghier FRA - 18th at Worlds last season, Besseghier will be the leading man at TEB after teammate Florent Amodio withdrew with an injury. I fully admit that I don't understand his choreography but I can't deny that he's got a knack for the big jumps. He's hot or cold, so we'll see where he lands this week.
8. Denis Ten KAZ - Maybe this prediction is just a reflection of me hedging my bets. But after seeing Ten hobble off the ice at Skate America to a ninth-place finish just three weeks ago, it's tough to see him both recovered and ready for this one. Let's hope his team isn't letting him compete injured. At his best, he's got medal chances, but my guess is that he's far from his best right now.
9. Jin Seo Kim KOR - Ninth at Skate Canada, the two-time Korean champion has a charming free skate that could be great if he puts his jumps together. But that's the piece of the puzzle that eludes him fairly often.
10. Romain Ponsart FRA - Under the guidance of new coach Brian Joubert, the French silver medalist won the domestic French Masters to start the season. He was eighth here four years ago.
11. Yi Wang CHN - TEB will be Wang's first Grand Prix outside of Cup of China. He has the potential to be both a strong technical and musical skater, but his inconsistency stands in the way.
WD Florent Amodio FRA - Withdrew with an ankle injury that he started feeling a few weeks ago at Skate America, where he was 11th. No replacement has been named, and there will likely not be a replacement this close to the competition.