Last week, the 30 teams of the National Hockey League combatted one another in the NHL Draft, where they filled their roster with future talent that will define their teams for years to come.
Last season, the event was a bit of a joke for most teams; There was no value to drafting a lineup of backup players who would never see time in a match. But this time around, thanks to MLG’s new free agency limitations, the draft has big implications for many teams and players.
The draft is the only way to bring players outside of the 48 on the original qualifying rosters of the league’s current teams onto your roster. There’s a large pool of talent outside the league, players with years of pro experience and incredible talent. Teams have already started to butt heads over the restrictions.
Rise Nation recently cut Brian “Saint” Baroska, with the intention of picking up top hot free agent Dillon “Attach” Price. But since Price failed to qualify for the league as part of Curse Orange at MLG Anaheim, he’s only available as part of the draft.
Rise Nation has the third pick in the draft. That means two other teams will have the chance to steal Price away from them, unless Rise Nation moves up in the order via in a trade that would likely include “monetary compensation”, as listed in the MLG rules. And the team with the top pick have said they’ll do as much, albeit a bit tongue-in-cheek:
There’s literally no team to stop us from drafting Attach and we already decided we were going to. 1 million dollars each pls
— Jonathan Baez (@Jus_SynfuLa) July 1, 2014
JusTus has the first overall pick in the draft, so it makes sense they’d use their selection on the hottest available talent. But they also already have a full roster of players, so if they do pick Price, he’ll probably end up languishing on their bench all season long.
That brings up one of the complications caused by the rules—Price is good enough to play in the league this season, but his team didn’t qualify. And despite multiple teams wanting him in their starting lineup, he may not have that chance because another team stashes him on their bench.
Yes I would like to be in Season 3 but I did not qualify so I have no plans on being a starter on any teams and will be a dominant sub.
— Attach (@DillonAttach) July 1, 2014
Price seems resigned to making the best out of the situation, but is the situation really the best for players and teams?
MLG designed the new rules to protect the 48 players who qualified for the league season, and in this specific case, it could actually be working. Leaving Price off a starting roster means a spot that’s likely filled by one of those 48, since those are the ones who are able to freely move between teams. Relying on the draft to fill a roster can be a dicey proposition, as Rise Nation found out today.
But the barrier protecting those 48 players is uneven. Call of Duty isn’t hockey, where injuries will inevitably allow backup players to break into the lineup, where hot streaks in the minor leagues could lead to a call up to replace a slumping player. These aren’t huge rosters of 25 players.
Most of the teams in the league likely won’t dip into their bench this season. Right now, there are four open starter spots in the MLG Season—one on Rise Nation, and three on the as-of-yet unnamed team slot acquired by Chris “Blevdog” Blevins. It’s possible a smart team is waiting to switch their starting lineup, if the right player reaches them in the draft so more than four players make it into the league.
But will those four new started be the best four players available? Probably not.
Someone like Price might be the best player available, but he’ll be punished for it and stashed on a bench because it gives JusTus or eLevate a competitive advantage to deny him from another team and have him around just in case. That’s bad for both the player and teams who want him and have open spots. It also means that MLG’s third season may not feature the best competition possible.
In the NHL or NBA, Price would play when his talent allows it. But in a game like Call of Duty, where teams are small tight-knit groups of four players and likely friends, it’s much tougher to break into a set lineup.
Granted, we have yet to see the draft play out. It’s quite possible that JusTus passes on Price and allows him to fall to the team he wants to play for and that really wants him, Rise Nation. It’s also possible JusTus uses the selection as an opportunity, picking Price or another star player and plugging him into their lineup, using the pick as a chance to acquire talent that may not have willingly signed with the team.
But that brings up another issue with the draft structure. How can MLG dictate to privately owned teams and players what their roster will be?
The teams pay the paychecks (at least on the squads that are salaried). Players are contracted by the teams, not MLG. Why should the league get an inordinate amount of power over determining rosters in the Call of Duty scene, when they are not the only competition out there, or even the biggest one, with the Call of Duty Championship handing out $1 million?
The uncertainty created by the draft sets up other problems, too. The MLG ruleset is supposed to protect the 48 qualified players, but ultimately the team has control over their roster. And with the new rules, players have less recourse if a team decides to replace them in the draft.
A smart team heading into the draft could maintain their roster of four in case they miss out on their target, but then replace a previous starter if they manage to get the player they wanted. That means a loyal player could lose his only chance to find a starting spot on a different team, a chance he would have had in an open player market.
Still, any system has its loopholes and flaws. The one thing certain about the upcoming MLG draft is that today’s posturing by Rise Nation and JusTus won’t be the last we hear about it.