Opining on 2015 Grand Prix Final (Part 2): What it means for Nationals

Are you still reeling from the Grand Prix Final? Pretty sure you are. In my first look back at the competition, it was all about the men's event and the crazy high scores that we were seeing (mostly because it was such a fantastic competition). And since that post, we've heard that the ISU could be considering some changes to IJS after this Olympic cycle. Hopefully, the take PCS into account there.

But more immediately, we have Japan, Russia, Canada, and U.S. holding their national championships in the next six weeks. And so much of what happened at the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona gave us hints of what to expect. What are the storylines? How has the pecking order changed? Let's take a look country-by-country, in order of Nationals, in lightning round style.

2015 Grand Prix Final
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Japan and Russia
Christmas for figure skating fans always means Japanese and Russian Nationals. And this year, the two competitions will basically be right on top of each other. Here's what I see going into each of those competitions.

    • Satoko Miyahara has moved into the surprise favorite position because of a combination of her consistency and improvements, and Mao Asada's inconsistency.
    • Barring extremely huge surprises, it will be some order of Asada, Miyahara, and Rika Hongo on the podium and to Worlds. But depending on where Asada's confidence is, she could very well finish third behind the other two, especially if she delivers the types of mistakes she had in Barcelona.
    • For the men, Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno will basically demolish the competition, so there won't be much of a question of who makes it to Worlds, since Japan has two spots for the men.
    • Daisuke Murakami will be favored for bronze - his qualification to Barcelona definitely helps his case for being a solid #3 for the Japanese men. But it'll be interesting to see how he does at home - his best skating has always happened outside of Nationals.
    • Unless something weird happens, Evgenia Medvedeva and Elena Radionova have sealed their Worlds spots.
    • Third spot? For now, my order of probability there would be Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Adelina Sotnikova, and then a big gap, Julia Lipnitskaia, and Anna Pogorilaya.
    • Polina Tsurskaya is too young for Worlds, but don't be surprised if she gets on the podium at Nationals.
    • The pairs event is going to be something else. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov have skyrocketed to the front, and their increased difficulty puts them ahead of Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov when it comes to favorites for gold at Nationals.
    • The resurgent Yuko Kavaguti/Alexander Smirnov took a few spills in Barcelona and look more vulnerable than they did earlier in the season, and suddenly, they are looking at third and battling Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov.
    • Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev reaped the benefits of making it to Barcelona over the other two top Russian teams. Remember, though, two spots for Worlds, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them off that roster, given the potentials of Ilinykh/Zhiganshin and Sinitsina/Katsalapov.

Canada and U.S.
A month after Japan and Russia will be Canada and the U.S. Get ready for me to be running around like a crazy person and dual-tweeting the competition.

    • Patrick Chan will win Canadians, that's pretty easy. Question is can he put a short program down that isn't a hot mess of wasted points.
    • Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford are still solid World title contenders this year, but you do wonder how risk-averse they are right now after struggling twice with their throw triple lutz.
    • Julianne Seguin/Charlie Bilodeau may be the candidates for most brownie points with their skyrocketing of scores in Barcelona - they are now solidly #2 in Canada.
    • World title favorites in dance currently sits in Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje's court - they are still undefeated this season. Of course, this was also the case last season exactly at this time, and Papadakis/Cizeron will be most likely be back in Boston.
  • U.S.
    • Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner had short program problems, but Wagner delivered the free skate of her career, besting even her Nationals free from last season. They are still the two favorites at Nationals and it'll be a question of who the third one on the Worlds team will be.
    • Wagner, though, is basically in the exact same position as she was last year, when she also had a super comeback in the free skate at GPF - except this time, she's an even stronger skater and the judges just gave her a near-140 free skate. Take note.
    • One of the most improved teams of the season, Alexa Scimeca/Chris Knierim, showed all sorts of vulnerabilities in Barcelona. But they should still be the favorites at Nationals, but in a much less invincible way than they would've been had they had a stronger competition.
    • Ice dance at US Nationals will be insane. It will be some order of Madison Chock/Evan Bates, Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani, and Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue - and they will all make it to Worlds.
    • The very interesting matchup there will be Chock/Bates vs. the Shibutanis, the latter of which are having quite the upward-trending momentum. St. Paul will be the best chance the Shibutanis have to beat Chock/Bates since 2013 Nationals, when Chock/Bates beat the Shibutanis by just under two points.