Off-season changes: Who's next?
The off-season is here and that only means one thing as always — teams will not have a better opportunity to make changes. But who is taking that chance or could be weighing up their options?
Ever since it was established informally by pro players and later made official by the Counter-Strike Professional Players' Association, the summer tournament break has always been the prime opportunity for the top teams to evaluate their lineups and make the necessary changes if needed.
This year, the off-season craze has already begun, with fnatic and Complexity being the first to take the plunge, and it's almost certain that more teams will not be the same by the time we return to tournament mode, in three weeks' time. So let's take a look at who else could join that list ahead of the second part of the season.
- fnatic bench Golden as they enter rebuilding phase
- fnatic bench JW, announce plans to go international
- Complexity bench RUSH
- Complexity sign es3tag
- gla1ve signs new three-year deal with Astralis
- Complexity sign peacemaker
Murmurs have been circling around the Astralis camp's long-term plans for a while now, with potentially multiple members of the legendary team looking to follow Nicolai "device" Reedtz out of the door after becoming disillusioned with the direction the Danish organization has undertaken in recent times. Reports have pointed out Danny "zonic" Sørensen as the likeliest candidate to leave and Nicolai "HUNDEN" Petersen as his possible replacement, and there's no telling where that could lead when it comes to rest of the squad.
A big overhaul might not be on the horizon until the end of the year, when the majority of the lineup's contracts run out — and we at least know that Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander isn't going anywhere anytime soon after he has just signed a new three-year deal with Astralis. However, there are still signs of a change coming before then and possibly very soon, with the in-game leader himself making it clear that the ever-changing AWPing situation in Astralis is hindering them from being able to reclaim the No.1 spot.
The AWP role has been a real issue for them since device's departure and a bit of a hot-potato situation, with the 'Big Green' going from Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen's hands at first to more of a shared role between him and gla1ve, while in the IEM Cologne playoffs it was mostly the in-game leader who picked up the sniper rifle. That is as much of a tell as you could wish for when you consider what could be in Astralis' near future. It doesn't look like anyone from the current roster can be particularly effective or comfortable in the role, so they'll have to look elsewhere. But who could they get?
Another organization that has already suggested that off-season changes may be on the cards is NIP. When they replaced Erik "ztr" Gustafsson with Linus "LNZ" Holtäng back in June, the Swedish side revealed that the latest academy member to join the main team would be given until the end of the season to prove himself, so the team are bound to at least reevaluate their choice, now that we have reached the tournament break.
NIP have so far given no indication as to whether the 18-year-old will be staying on or not, and the answer isn't obvious from the outside. LNZ showed some promise at the BLAST Premier Spring Final, but apart from a few good performances there, he has struggled to make a real impact on the team, averaging a 0.93 rating in the short time he has played with them so far.
It is also difficult to judge what the management of the organization is trying to achieve with the academy-focused approach around the fifth spot on the roster. It seems a complete turnaround from their shock (though admittedly expensive) signing of a superstar player like device, with whom they should be aiming for titles, so it might just serve as a plot to buy time before someone who won't cost them another reported $1 million and is more proven and established becomes available.
Far from as obvious a candidate to undergo changes as the aforementioned two, BIG might just be on the list of teams who are scouring the market for ways to improve the team. The Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz-led squad rose to prominence again last year with a successful run in the summer, but their recent lack of titles or even deep runs could be cause for their first player adjustment in over a year and a half.
Even now, while Ismailcan "XANTARES" Dörtkardeş is well into his third year with BIG, it's difficult not to see the Turk as the odd man out and imagine that the German organization wouldn't jump at a good enough opportunity to sign a player from their own country to solve the language differences — the issue that has seemingly always plagued the team, to a degree. Whether this is the time or not likely depends on the availability of a good enough replacement such as Josef "faveN" Baumann, whose three-year anniversary with Sprout is coming up in September.
The Brazilians around Andrei "arT" Piovezan have been in flux for the past few months. Their surprise addition of Paytyn "junior" Johnson at the start of the year has gone awry, with the American AWPer stepping down in June following a string of poor performances, which has forced the team to utilize their sixth player, Lucas "honda" Cano, in a move that has also yet to bear fruit.
Previously their sixth player and occasional stand-in, the 21-year-old has done little to bolster the team's firepower with an average 0.89 rating, and his addition to the active roster has only exacerbated FURIA's issues around the AWP. There is no denying that arT is capable enough with the weapon, but considering his role at the forefront of the team, it has always made sense for him to give up the main role to someone less aggressive and more reliable, as was the case when Henrique "HEN1" Teles was still part of the team and the duo had a strong dynamic. Perhaps that is something that FURIA could be considering now that they have some time off, especially with someone like paiN's Rafael "saffee" Costa being such a mouth-watering prospect in the Brazilian scene.
fnatic and Complexity are the only two teams who have already made official moves during the first several days of the off-season, and more updates are expected to come from at least the former over the next few weeks.
The Swedes are still missing two players following the benching of long-time members Maikil "Golden" Selim and Jesper "JW" Wecksell and look to go international, with Friday's 1pv.fr report linking them with former Cloud9 duo Alex "ALEX" McMeekin and William "mezii" Merriman. It is also unclear if that's where the changes will end for Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson & co., as there's an air of uncertainty around Jack "Jackinho" Ström Mattsson's future with the roster.