So wrong. The ability to arrest momentum in unison, coming out of fast, synchronized twizzles, for example, shows skill and control that blazing speed cannot. The ability to switch tempos, to vary the pace, to hold an edge and extend a line - all show tremendous skating skills. Blazing through a program at one speed can mask lack of control, lack of refinement, superficial edge work, and plenty of other problems. Furthermore, this is commonly understood not just in figure skating, but in dance as well. With figure skating, there needs be an aggregate of the positives - good speed, deep powerful edges creating speed - long, deep, powerful blade drive, letting the ice help you, not simply driving and pushing across it. We all know momentum aids control! Well all know teams who keep all their limbs moving at all times to mask unison issues too.Skating slower is easier. It's easier to do everything you think should be rewarded if you are not skating as fast as everyone else. The faster you go, the more difficult everything becomes. Superior speed is indicative of superior blade control, and better, cleaner stroking.
I don't think anybody is making the case that slow skaters are better than fast skaters, but if you're saying the absolute fastest skaters are the best skaters plain and simple, you are wrong. It wasn't true when early, rough Shen and Zhao powered through their programs kicking up snow like hockey players, it's not true of Gilles & Poirier, and I don't believe it's true of plenty of others either. I've seen plenty of fast skaters verging on wild, with noisy blades, who threaten to topple over if required to vary their rate of speed across the ice. Skaters whose ability to just power themselves down the ice using their conditioning and strength as athletes as much as or more than their skating skills sometimes unravel at high altitudes where that isn't possible, and their lack of control - and dependance on speed - is exposed.Look at John Curry's Olympic program. I don't think anyone can question that man's exquisite skating. He could vary tempo mid-spin. The nuance he as a skater brought to that program is unmatched. If he'd skated it relentlessly driving across the ice it would not be the rewatchable classic it is today.
Quality speed is deep into the ice, uses the ice to get power and glide, so a single stroke can produce enough power to cruise across the ice. Plenty of skaters churn, legs and arms constantly busy, forcing the speed. Does it look exhausting even if the skaters don't appear exhausted? That might be a tip off.
If speed is the demonstration of the best figure skating most of the NHL are potentially better figure skaters than exist in the various figure skating federations. We all know better than that.
P.S. "Speed" is deceptive. If a skater (or skaters) is/are "relentless" out there, never less than aggressive, never holding anything still, the arms always going - "busy" let's call it - they can create the impression that theyr'e the fastest around. Meanwhile they may not be appreciably faster than the skater or skaters who can get deep into the ice and achieve a gorgeous, quiet, long glide.