a) Takahashi did not compete at all during the 2008-2009 season because of injury
b) Takahashi literally did not successfully land a single ratified quad jump during the entire 2009-2010 season
Takahashi's always been an up-and-down skater. Your description of him now ("he'll still pull in good results, but when he's off, he's usually off the podium") has basically applied to him for most of his career, including before his injury. I think Li'Kitsu is correct--Takahashi never really had a discernible peak per se. In terms of jumping, maybe you can call his 2008 4CC performance a peak, but he ended up skating poorly and finished off the podium at 2008 Worlds right after. Similar to how he skated very well at this year's Nationals, but ended up skating poorly at 4CC and Worlds.
Since I got almost all my Vancouver predictions horrendously wrong in 2009, it'll be amusing to see how bad my predictions are again:
3) Bobrova/Soloviev (if P/B aren't 100% healthy next season)
4) Pechalat/Bourzat (bronze if 100% healthy next season)
Fernandez ( or he could pull of an upset to win gold )
Volosozhar/Trankov or Savchenko/Szolkowy
It's too hard to predict when you don't know who will be on the teams yet...
1. Hanyu (most capable of the extreme artistically and technically, if he can keep himself healthy . . . needs a more appropriate FS
choreography than this year though to address his sentimentality and his stamina issues)
2. Ten (I don't think he is a fluke)
3. Fernandez (consistency, consistency, consistency)
4. Chan (seems to be on a trajectory of mentally unraveling with no one putting him back together, but if someone does,
he could be unbeatable . . . don't see that happening, you can't tell someone who thinks he is perfect that he is not)
5. Reynolds (sentimental favorite . . . oh, I would cry with joy if he made the podium . . . needs more speed and height though ... hoping he gets it)
6. Takahashi (he just has to skate from one side of the boards to the other and he is awesome, I don't care if he wins.
just show up and he is worth a standing ovation, but I would be surprised if he got podium)
7. Aaron (he has beautiful energy, love to watch him, but his skating has to lose that "bull in the china shop" feel to it)
8. Brezina (maybe he can have a "Ten" moment, but his choice of choreography is consistently just not right for his skating)
9. Amodio (he would do better without Morosov being his Svengali, but that will never happen);
10. Joubert (hope he does something artistic . . . great to watch)
There are some skaters who are in jeapordy to miss their respective Olympics teams who could come top 10 at the Games if they were to make it, but might not make it, and my thread was top 10 so I see the point.
However there is nobody who is not a virtual lock for their own Olympic team who has a realistic chance at top 5 IMO.
The best skaters who are fighting for spots on their teams and not a lock would be:
U.S- Nagasu, Zawadzki, Gao, Lysacek (if he even returns), Abbott, Miner, Hubbel & Donahue, Shibutanis
Japan- Ando (if she returns), Oda, Kozuka, Mura, Machida
Russia- Lipnitskaia, Sotnikova, Tuktamysheva, several other Russian ladies
IMO none of those skaters are capable of a top 5 finish at the Games. The only exception I guess is Murakami and Suzuki who might be in slight danger if Ando returns, and are potentially both capable of top 5.
Why would Kozuka not be able to make the top 5? I can't count 5 skaters out there who are better skaters than him. (Actually, if one wants to add Plush, it's probably exactly 5. But I'm still not sure Plush will be able to skate at the Olympics...).
If I'm not mistaken, his TES from 2011 worlds LP (~98) is still the highest ever given under IJS - with one quad no less. You can argue about how realistic it is for him to skate well, but a clean Kozuka will very, very likely make the Top 5. His 2011-12 season may not have been very good, but he came back to make the GPF in 2012 and just missed worlds because of his injury. Hopefully the injury won't affect his olympic season too much, that's the only reason I actually think he's not a lock for the team (as much as I love Mura).