The champions of North American League of Legends made the most surprising roster move of the offseason today.
Choi “HuHi” Jae-hyun will be the Counter Logic Gaming mid laner in 2016, the team announced today. That comes as a surprise considering the mid laner who led the team to their first ever League Championship Series (LCS) title, Eugene “Pobelter” Park, is still on the team.
The team will seek the “best possible opportunities” for Park entering next season, potentially transferring the player to another team.
The move comes as a complete surprise considering that, while Park certainly wasn’t a star player this season, he provided a steady presence in the mid lane for the region’s best team, excelling in the job assigned to him. But the team has decided to go a different direction.
“Winning is a constantly ongoing process and CLG believes that these changes will move the team forward towards that goal,” the team’s announcement reads. “We are happy to have won our first LCS championship, but as many sports fans would know – the results of one year are not indicative of the next.”
The worst thing a championship winning team can do is be complacent with their success, and this shows Counter Logic Gaming won’t stay content with just a domestic title. Their League of Legends World Championship performance, a group stage exit in what should have been a winnable draw, was perhaps a bit of a wake up call.
If Counter Logic Gaming believes Choi is a stronger option than Park, you have to believe they have good reasons to think so. Choi’s been on their roster just as long as Park despite never played an official match, meaning the team is very familiar with him as a player. He was almost thrust into the lineup by circumstances at the League of Legends World Championship earlier this month when jungler Jake “Xmithie” Puchero’s visa status was in question, forcing him to practice with the team as a jungler for a couple weeks, meaning they are intimately familiar with how he works in their team dynamic. But if Choi really is a stronger talent, you have to wonder why Counter Logic Gaming didn’t turn his way sooner or at least give him a look during the LCS season.
Whatever the case, Choi has his shot now.
“I’m just really excited to finally be able to prove myself in front of you guys,” the new mid laner said in a video statement. “I’m just going to try hard. I don’t think it’s going to be a huge issue to build up synergy with my team because I’ve been on CLG as a sub for six months now. It will be easy to build that synergy. We’ll be able to perform our maximum in IEM San Jose.”
Choi will debut in the lineup at IEM San Jose in November. The fact that the team is introducing him as the 2016 starter now instead of using IEM as an opportunity to test him at the position shows their confidence in him, and show that the team likely is not planning on keeping Park around in the Spring as a backup like they did with Choi last split.
It’s an odd move for the defending LCS champions, but in the highly competitive world of esports, you need to make tough decisions to stay on top.