This is one speculation thread that needs to get started: two events 23 skates competed so far, one shock elimination, and a couple of surprise medalists. The eight skaters who have been in a top four so far:
NHK Trophy Top Four:
1. Carolina Kostner-Need only medal at Skate America, where I'm not sure anyone can beat her unless she skates quite badly. Rachael Flatt couldn't in Japan, Elene Gedevanishvili would actually have to skate clean, Murakami might not be in position yet either, and Caroline Zhang's not scoring high lately either.
2. Rachael Flatt-Needs to win Skate America to seal it, where I'm not sure the judges are willing to put her ahead of Kostner. Fortunately two silvers should work, and she need only stay ahead of Murakami and Zhang(or Gedevanishvili if she pulls it together). The former might be harder than the latter, but Flatt might win out on that consistency of hers. It might even serve he well if she does get knocked down to bronze and into the score tiebreaker. She'd have to be pretty unlucky for both of them to beat her.
3. Kanako Murakami-Probably wants to win Skate America; I don't know if she'd win any score tiebreakers with only silver. But I think she'd need Kostner to help her. For starters. She'd also need a good free. So not impossible, but don't hold your breath.
4. Kiira Korpi-Would need to win Trophée Eric Bombard, where she'd need Mao to melt down again. Though it's worth noting she does have a good shot at silver, if she herself doesn't melt down, where her top competition is Mirai Nagasu, Alissa Czisney, and Fumie Suguri, all three of whom she could beat(which means if Mao does melt down again...).
Skate Canada Top Four:
1. Alissa Czisney-Need only medal at Trophée Eric Bombard, and if she holds it together that shouldn't be too hard; a well-skating Mao would beat her, but Korpi isn't reliable, and even Mirai Nagasu is far from certain to beat her. It's the kind of field where Suguri is a factor, but there Alissa need only skate well. That's the only question, really, can she skate well this time?
2. Ksenia Makarova-Would need to win Rostelecom Cup, or at least medal, where she's stuck with a stacked field: Miki Ando, Akiko Suzuki, and countrywoman Alena Leonova, and that's just for starters; there's Ashley Wagner and Agnes Zawadski lurking about. Even if she could beat the last two, for the first three she'll probably need for them to help. One of them might, but I don't know about two, let alone three, and if it's bronze, how will she fare in the score tiebreaker? The judges might help her, but how much?
3. Amelie Lacoste-Would have to win Skate America, and I don't think she can beat Kostner. Even for silver she'd need help from Flatt, Murakami, and even Zhang(and Gedevanishvili, but...)
4. Cynthia Phaneuf-To have any chance she'd have to win Trophée Eric Bombard, which is not entirely impossible if Mao melts down again, but even then there's Czisney, Nagasu, Korpi, and even Suguri, so it's not likely either. She'd probably need oft-mentioned meltdown to even have a chance at silver.
Knocked out, but still factors:
Ashley Wagner-5th at NHK, facing a thick field at Rostelecom Cup, but that could only cause her to make more difference if she's the one to surprise it
Agnes Zawadski-6th at Skate Canada, less likely than Wagner to affect things at the Rostelecom Cup, but she showed the potential to
Elene Gedevanishvili-6th at NHK, always has the potential to mix things up, at Skate America this time, but will she ever do so?
Caroline Zhang-7th at NHK, but in the relatively weak Skate America field could still be a factor
Mao Asada-8th at NHK and favorite to win Trophée Eric Bombard! Whether she skates better there or not could be the deciding factor in a few people's fates...
Fumie Suguri-9th at Skate Canada, probably won't mix things up at Trophé Eric Bombard, but then that field's just unpredictable enough..
Sarah Meier-Withdrew from Skate Canada, and opposite of Suguri, in the wrong field to make a difference in Russia, but you never know
Contenders yet to skate: