As we enter the final week of the split and teams prepare to play musical chairs for the final playoff spot. The NALCS season should be entering its climax, yet I find myself mildly disinterested and generally numb to the whole process. The source of my discontent is CLG. Counter Logic gaming sits at 5-11 and is ties for last place with the newly franchised Golden Guardians. A bad season I can understand, being a Toronto sports fan lord knows I have painfully digested many a bad season from my favorite sports teams. What is most disheartening is the fact that CLG seems to have been left behind by the rest of the NALCS. As other organizations have evolved throughout the franchising process CLG has stagnated. This stagnation is most evident in the fact that despite its struggles CLG has stubbornly stuck to its core 5 man roster. After a difficult spring split the organization decided to run the roster back, encouraged by a late season run. After a hot start to the summer split the team began to free fall and while the roster has still stayed the same throughout, this downturn has led the team to Part with their long time coach Tony “Zikz” Grey. In light of this change I have began to wonder was it the organization that refused to change or was it Zikz?
Early results from the post Zikz era, point to the problems being organizational. Small sample size as it may be, last week’s matches proved to be more of the same. The same players playing the same champions, with maybe a slightly more late game team composition. Before I go any further, I must preface that I sit firmly in the camp that believes CLG’s major problems stem from the Jungle. Reignover’s limited champion pool and mid to late game struggles seem to dictate too heavily the teams strategy. With that being said Reignover is not the only under-performing player on the roster. Yet, the team did not see fit to give any of their academy players any time on stage. This decision angered a portion of the fan base. Especially in the light of all the success that rival Cloud 9 had with its own roster shake up and the success Tuesday and Wiggly we’re having as a jungle mid combo for CLG Academy. Some may point to the success CLG had early in the split for the roster stagnation. However, 100 Thieves were in first place when they traded their starting Jungler Metros. A move that was highly criticized at the time but has seemed to pay off in the long term. Even early season when the meta was more open and mages and bruisers we’re viable in the bot lane, CLG refused to experiment with role swaps. Which may have been a missed opportunity with Tuesday’s proficiency on Yasuo. It may be that Nick Allen and CLG management felt that our academy players were not ready to step into the LCS stage. However, if that is the case it only highlights the fact that CLG struggles with roster management and player development are institutional
With that being said roster management isn’t the only aspect in which CLG failed to adjust. Despite being previously known for its innovation, CLG’s comps this split were predictable and the team seemed to be constantly chasing the meta. In regard to play style and team compositions a large portion of the blame has to be directed towards Zikz. Whether he was unable to adjust to the meta or was simply unable to convince the players to play a different play style matters little. Zikz was the main voice in the room and had final say on the teams drafts and for that he must be kept accountable. On several occasions our opposition has openly admitted that CLG seem to play the same way every game. Now that I think about it, I can’t remember the last time where it felt like CLG won the draft. Often it felt like the team drafted execution heavy comps, with narrow win conditions. The team seems reluctant to play around Darshan in the top lane. Which is surprising because Reignover’s strength has been traditionally top jungle synergy. Where Zikz does deserve credit is in the fact that CLG was one of the top early game teams in the league and at one point this split had obtained first blood in 9 straight matches. However, CLG struggled to transition those advantages in to anything more than some early gold. How much of that can be blamed on Zikz is unclear. Rather this is more likely a symptom of the team greater problem, which is the massive void in shot calling that was created with the departure of Afromoo last year. So in the end maybe it all does come back to Management?