We’re still several weeks away from the offseason, but that isn’t stopping Team Liquid from making moves.
Less than 24 hours after revealing the signing of former ROX Tigers mid laner Young-min “Mickey” Son, TL tweeted this video out to announce another shocking development that no one could have seen coming:
Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett, the gifted yet problematic jungler, has come home to where he started last year. As a member of TL last year, Dardoch quickly became a star player known for his jaw-dropping mechanics on Lee Sin and Graves and hyper-aggressive playstyle. But even with his raw talent, he proved to be a problem too big to solve for TL. The incredible Breaking Point documentary paints a picture of a player determined and hungry to play at the World Championships on the biggest stage against world-class talent. But it also outlines the reason Dardoch is now on his third team this year and why Liquid ultimately released Dardoch last year.
Listening to the farewell video posted by Immortals and reading this statement from Counter Logic Gaming leaves a lot of question marks surrounding Dardoch’s LCS future. Knowing Dardoch’s feelings on the organization only makes this move even more of a head-scratcher.
TL has recommitted to a gifted player with known attitude issues that will conflict with their attempt to rebuild a healthy team environment. At his worst, Dardoch becomes a player who would get reported by his entire team if his behavior showed up in a ranked game on solo queue. But TL knows better than anyone else what they get with Dardoch on his best behavior.
The consensus on Dardoch, based on his mechanical skill, is that he’s a player who owners would give their right leg and more to sign to their roster. Because of that, owners will continue rolling the dice with him in the hope they can fix his attitude in a team environment and mold him into a mature, professional leader who sets a great example for his teammates.
At least this move can make some logical sense in the big picture. The core of the roster that Dardoch took the NA LCS by storm with in 2016 has been maintained. With Dardoch’s playmaking ability, Samson “Lourlo” Jackson looked like a competent top laner while Gwang-jin “Piglet” Chae and Matt Elento could play with confidence in the bot lane. There should be no problem for Dardoch to adjust to this roster given he spent most of 2016 bedazzling the world with Team Liquid.
There’s also the potential for Mickey’s carry potential to be unlocked consistently with Dardoch’s proactivity on the map. An aggressive playmaker could be what Mickey needs to help him become a strong mid laner. If it helped Jae-hyun “HuHi” Choi look like a top-3 mid laner at times this summer, just think of what it could do for Mickey. Like Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer, Mickey has talent to be a consistent starter. Also like Goldenglue: Mickey is wildly inconsistent.
The key difference that’s made TL roll the dice on Mickey? Mickey’s potential to take over a game when he gets going. His best games with the ROX Tigers came when he was given a commanding lead. But when Mickey plays poorly, his numbers look awful. That makes Mickey a risky gambit as a boom-or-bust option out of mid lane. But pairing him with Dardoch immediately gives Mickey incredible potential.
But even with these positives in mind, here’s where I have a problem with these moves. The original starting roster for summer is fresh off a strong 2-0 week. They were finally fun to watch because they were proactive on the map and decisively won games when they were given the advantage. This would be the time where you keep that same roster intact and see if they can build on their momentum. Instead, TL looks to go ahead and throw Dardoch and Mickey in the fire with three tough matchups against Immortals, Cloud9, and Dignitas waiting in the wings. How do you expect to create a winning culture when you don’t try to maintain some form of consistency?
That’s like watching a star runningback carve up the opposing defense in the first half on the way to a commanding lead and then taking the ball out of his hands in the second half. If a bone-headed decision like that cost the Atlanta Falcons a Super Bowl victory, then why would these knee-jerk reactions from TL work now? Why would TL make these changes now? More importantly, why would Dardoch return to an organization he doesn’t respect and an organization he knows that won’t make it to the World Championships? What part of this move makes sense for any party involved?
I understand that Steve Arhancet made these moves with the intention of giving his team the best chance to win. It’s why no owner in their right mind questioned TL’s acquisition of Peng “Doublelift” Yillang when his talent and game knowledge ended up saving TL from relegation in spring. I also understand Steve’s desire to field a roster of world-class talent. Every team owner should have the same goal of building a dominant roster like Korean powerhouse SK Telecom T1. But given the timing of these shake-ups, given the issues of inconsistency for Mickey and attitude clashes for Dardoch, how can you defend these signings?
One day, Steve will have to learn that you can’t solve every problem by throwing money at it and hoping it fixes itself.