Photo courtesy of lolesports.com
CLG fans are justifiably upset about their team’s decision to release Doublelift, a Summer split MVP candidate and the face of their franchise. It’s especially jarring that it came on the heels of benching Pobelter and then releasing head coach Chris Ehrenreich for unspecified reasons. The pitchforks are out in full force, and less than three months after CLG reached an all-time high as an organization by winning their first LCS title at Madison Square Gardens.
These are difficult, confusing times for CLG fans, but maybe it’s time to take a step back, exhale, and give CLG’s management the benefit of the doubt on these moves (gasp!). As Coach Chris said on the True Sight Podcast this week, “I highly doubt CLG would make any of these decisions if they hadn’t done an objective analysis of it and said, ‘OK, we actually believe that this will make our team better in the future.'”
Of course, if I’m going to imply that CLG had legitimate reasons for what they’re doing, I’d better able to give some examples! I don’t think we need to focus on the Mid lane change; CLG has provided their reasoning for that move. And Coach Chris has given some insight into his own situation on the podcast and elsewhere. But what about the big one? What about Doublelift?
Here are three valid reasons why CLG might have chosen to release Doublelift and go a different direction with their roster.
1. They Reached the Doublelift Ceiling
CLG may feel that after four years of building teams around Doublelift, they’ve reached the peak of where he can take them. No matter how hard they’ve tried, CLG has always reverted to a “feed Doublelift” approach to the game. There have been nuances to their strategies, variations on a theme, but the theme has always been that Doublelift gets the resources, Doublelift gets the strategic priority, and victory or defeat comes down to how well Doublelift is able to follow through on that investment.
The Doublelift-centric approach finally won CLG a North American title. CLG refined and iterated on their team concept until it made them the strongest team in their region. And the moment they hit the international stage at the 2015 World Championships, it became abundantly clear that their refinements were nowhere near enough: they bombed out of the group stages, despite playing in probably the easiest group.
The CLG+Doublelift combo had arguably achieved the best outcome it was ever going to achieve. Where could the team go from here? If CLG believed that they had gone as far as they could go with Doublelift on the roster, then it makes perfect sense to make a clean break, hit the reset button, and find a new approach.
Doublelift won’t be easy to replace. Things will probably get worse before they get better for CLG. But the team’s goal is to be relevant on the international stage, and they clearly believe that a different AD Carry will raise the ceiling on their potential.
2. A Fresh Start
Over four years of living and working together, any relationship is bound to go through some ups and downs. Quadruple the emphasis on that statement if the relationships we’re talking about involve several super competitive teenagers in a high stakes environment with the eyes of thousands scrutinizing every move on social media. Under those circumstances, CLG may feel that it’s time to reset the team culture and environment.
Reddit has been aflame with shock over the idea that maybe Doublelift and his Support partner, Aphromoo, weren’t some kind of Super Duper BFFs. If Doublelift wasn’t even best buds with his Rush Hour counterpart, you can imagine that some of his other relationships within the team were also imperfect. It’s only natural that there have been conflicts, disagreements, and disputes within CLG, especially knowing what we do about some of the key personalities within the organization, and seeing the drama that came out after CLG’s last big roster move.
This isn’t about assigning blame or criticizing anyone’s ability to “get along”. It’s simply an acknowledgement that both Doublelift and CLG are carrying a lot of baggage from the past four years. CLG may feel they can make greater progress by shedding that emotional burden, allowing themselves to lose the good in order to free themselves of the bad.
Without digging deep into the drama mines, it’s impossible for outsides to know if the weight of the baggage justified this move. Even so, there were almost certainly some outside-of-the-game factors that contributed to CLG’s decision.
3. A New Plan
An organization like CLG has to work within a budget, and you can bet Doublelift’s salary was on the higher end of the NA LCS pay range. Bearing in mind the other reasons we’ve discussed, is it possible that CLG has a plan in place for other parts of their roster, but couldn’t make the money work if they kept Doublelift on the budget? (This angle is a bit out there, but bear with me!)
We already know that CLG has had Stixxay on the roster since the start of the Summer Split, serving as an understudy to Doublelift. Stixxay will be playing with CLG’s farm team in the HTC Ascension Challenger tournament that kicks off this month, so we know he’s still with the organization. With Stixxay, CLG has a built-in succession plan if they can’t find another low-cost option they like better.
The potential implications? With some budget space freed up at AD Carry, CLG can afford to spend more on high-profile free agents in the Jungler and/or Support positions, depending on whether they feel Xmithie and/or Aphromoo are worth replacing. The offseason is a crazy place; who knows what kind of star power CLG might be targeting? (Whether they can convince those players to join the team is another question, but having a domestic championship under their belt should help to balance out some of the negative perceptions that may be out there.)
I have absolutely no evidence or numbers to back this idea up, but I don’t think it’s implausible. And if CLG does land a superstar import, imagine how quickly their fans’ mindset will turn around.
We may never learn the entire story behind CLG’s decision to part ways with Doublelift, but any or all of these reasons could be justification enough. Time will tell whether it was the right call.