The current narrative of Ashley's career is that she was a very talented but erratic competitor earlier, prone to costly jump issues and poor SPs. But under Mr Nicks and choreographer Philip Mills since mid-2011, Ashley acquired the consistency, technical improvements, and stylish programs that allowed her to become a US and international champion and an almost certain Olympian.

As we know, her second US title was a close call with 17-year-old Gracie Gold almost stealing the show. Nonetheless almost 22-year-old Ashley is usually credited with "mature" artistry (whatever that means), consistency (despite recent hiccups) and generally being a complete package skater. However, a Worlds medal still eludes her and she is at best a long shot for an Olympic medal. For me personally it is easier to picture Gracie having a Mirai 2010 moment (not too different from her FS at Nationals this year) and grabbing an Olympic bronze than Ashley pulling off the same feat.

The problem I have with the narrative above is that Ashley is becoming less and less interesting to me. Key: a dynamo as a junior, she has arguably gained consistency and solidified her jumps at the expense of the speed and daring that was her most exciting quality. In addition, I actually don't see an iota of artistic improvement since her days with Priscilla Hill. (See her 2008-2009 programs below for comparison.) I do agree with the general consensus that her programs last season were unexpected, sophisticated and well performed, culminating in her victory over Mao at 4CCs due to Ashley finally throwing in a 3-3 and Mao messing up her 3As. This season, though - the results are great, but I am underwhelmed. The programs are meh, I find the vamping in S&D embarrassing, and we never saw even an attempted 3-3. To descend to superficial matters: the pouffy retro hairdo (like the one Rachael Flatt had for a while -- shoot those hairdressers!), the bottle blonde hair, and the overdone eyebrows, makeup and facial expressions are all terrible fashion mistakes. Compare how lovely she looked back in 2008-2009. (To be fair, I have nothing against her current costumes. )

Ashley today seems to put half her emphasis on her package and the other half on not making mistakes. It isn't fun any more IMO but the strategy is working for her... for now. Next season, though, with Gracie, Mao, Kaetlyn, and Zijun improving (and, God willing, Mirai and Adelina too) and Yu Na and Carolina back in the picture? Hmmm.... I am dubious. So much for my opinion. Anybody else?

"Somewhere in Time" SP, NHK 2008:
http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=NnSN9...%3DNnSN9mCezO0

"Spartacus" FP, NHK 2008:
http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=MeMMa...%3DMeMMaYr5PeY