LEC: SK Gaming make uninspiring midseason roster changes

League of Legends. Courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Courtesy of Riot Games. /

SK Gaming have announced their roster for the 2020 LEC Summer Split

Sweeping roster changes have always been a regular feature of competitive League of Legends, usually triggered by teams that have failed to meet expectations after a disappointing season. In Europe, we’ve seen it from the likes of H2k, Origen, and, most recently, Misfits Gaming in an attempt to rebuild confidence and start over with a new line-up. However, SK Gaming have opted for a different approach ahead of the 2020 LEC Summer Split.

Last week, it was announced that Petar “Unlimited” Georgiev would be stepping down from his role as head coach to be replaced by former SK Gaming player Jesse “Jesiz” Le. In terms of roster changes, Janik “Jenax” Bartels will be role swapping to top lane for the Summer Split, while Dirk “ZaZee” Mallner will be taking mid lane duties.

There was no doubt that SK needed to switch things up after the team failed to qualify for the Spring Split playoffs, struggled to establish a clear identity, and won just 4 of their 18 regular season games. The organization has been proactive and made changes during the midseason break, but many SK fans are disappointed with the new roster and pessimistic about the team’s chances of reaching the Summer Split playoffs.

Playoffs is an unrealistic expectation for SK’s uninspiring new roster

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Finishing 9th with a 4-14 record – particularly in a Spring Split packed with inexperienced squads – was a terrible result for SK Gaming and should have prompted several positive signings for the starting roster. Instead, the SK management have refused to adapt to the situation and are happy to settle for 9th place (or below), as evidenced by their unambitious roster changes.

The midseason break was an opportunity for SK Gaming to sign an accomplished top laner capable of providing consistency and guidance to a team looking to make amends for their poor Spring Split performance. Jenax will instead take up that role, switching from SK’s mid lane, in a move that will undoubtedly take time for both the player and team to adjust to.

Though perhaps SK’s most surprising midseason roster change was one that didn’t happen. Despite an awful Spring Split performance that lacked any form of proactivity, often forcing his team into an early gold deficit, jungler Kim “Trick” Gang-yun retained his place in SK’s starting line-up, a decision which left some SK fans confused and disillusioned at their team’s direction ahead of the Summer Split.

SK Gaming’s only source of optimism stems from their promising, new mid laner ZaZee who has won 3 of his last 4 tournaments with Berlin International Gaming, including last summer’s EU Masters and the 2019 ESL Meisterschaft Winter Playoffs.

It’s possible that the German could be yet another product of the endless conveyor belt of talented European mid laners, following in the footsteps of established LEC stars like Caps, Larssen, and Humanoid. However, it will take time for the mid laner to settle himself on the Berlin stage at a time when SK cannot afford to be patient if they want to turn things around and qualify for the 2020 World Championship.

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Recently, we saw Team Vitality make wholesale changes to their LEC roster after their poor start to the season. We also saw Excel Esports switch things up, despite only narrowly missing out on the Spring Split playoffs. It’s no surprise that SK fans are dismayed at their team’s lack of ambition ahead of the Summer Split while the teams around them make clear improvements to their line-ups.

New head coaches offer new ideas, new philosophies, and new optimism that sometimes completely transform the look of a team, even during the midseason break. However, judging by SK Gaming’s dire Spring Split performance and uninspiring roster changes, Jesiz will have a tough job on his hands if he is to convert a 9th place team into Summer Split playoff contenders.