I also think the 2011 worlds all NA podium (which was really a total accident and fluke and came about only due to a huge two person fall by P&B) really upset the European dance community, and while they had some legit issues that caused their downfall, the Shibutanis also payed a heavy price in the years to come. IMO that world bronze might prove to be the deteriment of the rest of their careers. It has thus far.
Anyway if they never allowed another NA sweep after 2011 even with V&M and D&W, two of the best teams ever both from NA, both around. They sure as hell wont let it happen now.
Yes, the Shibutanis have kind of been treading water for the past several seasons. Not only have they had trouble going back up, but they've had other teams overtaking them (W&P, C&B, I&K etc.) that they used to place ahead of. And now they also have other teams at this year's Worlds who have begun closing in on them (I was surprised to see G&P come within less than a point of the Shibs in the FD). It's also possible that P&I could move in on The Shibs down the road if they can keep skating more consistently. H&D are also a potential challenge for the Shibs if Madison's surgery turns out to be successful and they begin to move up.
I think it is still a little early to predict how deep or not the field is going into 2018. Some people hate B/S, but let's face it. They and I/K could have had an incredible rivalry these next four years, which will never happen because of the split. B/S & I/K were getting marks that D/W were not even getting in 2009-2010 also. And in the last quad from around 2007-2010 the field seemed very deep, with French D/S, Russian D/S, V/M, B/A, K/N. At least around 2007-2009 before pregnancies and injuries got the best of French D/S, Russian D/S, V/M. It paved the way for D/W to win a medal in 2010, who were the only healthy skaters. And then, the field didn't seem deep anymore with all these injuries to key teams like V/M, the French D/S, the Russian D/S, B/A.
Aside from V/M's dominance in Vancouver, the rest of the field didn't seem as deep as in 2007 and 2008 because of all the injuries to D/S, V/M and the pregnancy of the French D/S. B/A also had some back problem for him. These chain of events all led to D/W's Olympic medal win in 2010, who had never before won any medal at Worlds, unlike V/M, French D/S, Russian D/S, K/N, and B/A.
I think we can only gauge frontrunners during the Olympic season because the depth of the field can change very quickly, as we saw pre-2010.
This thread had a possibility or relevance,
But the original post was so manipulative that it died right there.