2017 World Team Trophy preview: A few calculations later

I forget what it's like to do a World Team Trophy prediction. I could've done it based on general intuition of the teams, but as I like to do, I decided to lay out every skater and added up my granular intuition instead. You know, just for kicks.

The 2017 World Team Trophy will be a battle between six countries - Canada, Russia, the U.S., Japan, China, and France (in order of qualification) - in a team competition that is unlike any other you'll see this season. Each team has two men, two women, one pair, and one dance team.

The U.S. has won three of the four World Team Trophy titles, with Japan winning the fourth. To win this competition, you have to have an all-around team with strong skaters in all four disciplines. And because of the scoring rules, there are some particulars viewers should pay attention to. I'll start with those and then dive into my predictions.

The keys to victory
There are a few very specific things about how World Team Trophy is scored that change the way that the scoring leans. A few notes for viewers that may change the way you root for your favorite team(s):

  • Team scores are based on placements - Each team's total score is based on placements (in singles, 12 points for 1st through 1 point for 12th; in pairs/dance, 12 points for 1st through 7 points for 6th), so it doesn't matter how large your margin of victory is; it only matters that you finish ahead of other skaters.
  • Short and free are separate - There is no combined total for skaters, so if a skater/team bombs one program, he/she/they can still contribute greatly to the team score in the other program.
  • Pairs/dance provide a different dynamic - You'll notice that there are six pairs and six dance teams, as opposed to 12 men and 12 women. Why is that important? Well, the scoring is that the pairs and dance teams finishing lowest still get SEVEN points, whereas the single skaters who finish lowest only get ONE point. In that way, teams with less prowess in pairs and dance have less of a disadvantage than teams with less prowess in singles. 

2017 World Team Trophy Predictions
Official hashtag: #WTTFigure

Team predictions
1. Team United States
2. Team Russia
3. Team Japan
4. Team Canada
5. Team China
6. Team France

Believe it or not, five of the Big 6 are going to be at this competition (Javier Fernandez is the only one missing), which means that this will be yet another amazing set of programs. But noting that the programs from the these five men will be incredibly difficult and risky, Jason Brown could end up playing a bit of a spoiler role if any of the top five make multiple mistakes. It's the last competition of the season after the highs of the World Championships - it could happen.

Of interest: First, has Nathan Chen figured out his boot problems? Second, if Russia is to win this event, Mikhail Kolyada and Maxim Kovtun will need to find themselves in the top six somehow. Third, if Canada wants to get on the podium, clean performances from Patrick Chan and a high finish from Kevin Reynolds will be super important.

Well, Evgenia Medvedeva is really the only potentially sure thing about this lineup here. What happens in the next six spots in each segment of the competition will go a long ways toward determining which team wins this thing. This discipline is a crucial one for Team USA's chances at getting a fifth World Team Trophy, and it's also a crucial one for Team Japan to stay on the podium, especially since their strength is in the singles disciplines.

Of interest: Alaine Chartrand, Mae Berenice Meite, and Elena Radionova are making their return to competition after not being at Worlds. And of note, the finishes from Chartrand and Radionova could make for big swings in the team standings.

The pairs discipline is an interesting one for sure because a few of the top pairs from the countries chose to skip the event. And so you'll see the pairs standings be a lot more unpredictable than you may otherwise have. Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov and Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres are the ones who are expected to be up near or at the top, but as we saw at Worlds, the depth of pair skating right now can completely shake up the standings. Team Japan has the biggest disadvantage here, but the scoring structure will keep them from falling too far behind.

Of interest: For Team USA, Ashley Cain/Timothy LeDuc could make a difference to the overall team scores if they outperform their expectations. And for Team Russia, two first-place finishes for Tarasova/Morozov will give them a big boost toward dethroning the Americans.

Like pairs, dance keeps Team Japan from really being a gold medal favorite here, but the scoring structure keeps them in the running. This is, however, a place where Team Canada could really make a run for the podium. The top three teams have scored very close to each other all season long, but if Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje can continue to ride the upward momentum they've been cultivating late this season and win both segments, we could see Canada really be in the running for the top three.

Of interest: Madison Chock/Evan Bates have the potential to win both segments as well, but they will need to figure out their programs and not make some of the mistakes we've seen them make in major competitions.