I agree with pretty much this entire post (except the dream podium in #8).Random thoughts on the subject
1. Doesn't it feel like Chan's on the decline? A combination of deliberate technical stagnation (he feels he doesn't need to add more to his arsenal) and the lack of a technical/psychological training (again, according to his own words) has precipitated some of his worst skates in seasons. There's definitely a rising backlash to his victories/scoring that, regardless of coded/systemic changes, could work against him.
2. Denis Ten, of course, peaked gloriously at Worlds. But I can't help feel that it was somewhat of a fluke. 60 points better than his prior season best? Nearly 40 points higher than his previous personal best? It'll be interesting to see where he goes now, but I'm not quite willing to commit to his podium chances yet. Or ever, really.
3. The one I can rationalize my feelings with facts most easily is Javier Fernandez. He's moving up in general. He's skating better, which means he's scoring better, which means he's skating with more confidence, which is increasing his PCS, etc. He still makes costly errors, but he's gotten to that level where the judges won't hold him back. He has the second highest LP score ever. And if he does go for a two-quad SP/3 quad LP like more and more of the men seem to be trying (Aaron has mentioned it, Joubert already attempted it, ditto Reynolds) he might actually be unbeatable. More than any other guy, he seems to be closest to a sustainable (read for a season) peak.
4. Or maybe Hanyu. Hanyu isn't closer to his peak, but if all goes well, his peak seems like it'll be higher than Fernandez. But Hanyu seems to be struggling a bit more. He had such a blazing start to his season (two World records back to back, GP silver, National title) only to decline. Even in those results we saw decline. Of course, in his previous two seasons, we saw him struggle a little in the start only to turn it on by the end. So it's a weird reversal. How much of that was adjusting to his new environment? I do feel like there's room enough for both Orser men to be on the podium, but where?
5. If the results were democratic and FSU the voting body, is there any doubt that Takahashi would win in a walk? The most popular skater of his generation (I do consider him and Plushenko to be two different generations, fwiw), capable of real moments of genius. And a championship skater if there ever was one. Not one to take the easy way out (excepting the decision to go back to Morosov). But he's probably the farthest from his peak of the real contenders. He doesn't feel like a real number one. He's going into the next Olympics as the reigning bronze medalist, and it's hard not to feel like he might be like the last guy to go into the Olympics with that title. Entertaining skater with a long professional/choreographing career ahead of him if he wants.
6. Plushenko. What is there to say about him? He defies belief. Missed Nagano on a fluke (Urmanov's withdrawal from 1997 Worlds meant that Russia would only have two spots and he was skating in a field where four men could make the final as they did during that Olympic season), but had been a competitive mainstay for eight more years and demonstrated he was capable of significant astonishment FIFTEEN years after his first World medal. He demonstrates a mental fortitude that most skaters cannot even approach. But while spirit is willing, what does the body say? I get why he wants to compete - he hasn't skated at home at a major event ever (WD from Moscow 2005, didn't compete in 2011. Russia didn't hold Euros during his career). Ultimately, I think the best he can do is a gold in the team event and that would be impressive and I think a worthy final bow. I don't anticipate him doing much damage in the individual event, though.
7. Lysacek.... you know, at least Plushenko and even Wier walked-the-walk. Plushenko came back for Vancouver, won another European title in 2012, and won his billionth national title. Lysacek... notsomuch. All we've heard are the usual homilies and platitudes: he's better than ever, ready to compete, the goal is Sochi. But he hasn't competed. And I feel that the level has eclipsed what he did at his best.
8. If someone has a Wylie moment, it could be Kozuka or Abbott (for the record, my Worlds 2013 dream podium was Kozuka-Fernandez-Abbott. You can imagine how disappointed I was that two of them didn't even make Worlds). But you just wish for Wylie moments, you don't bet on them.