Preseason Analysis: Houston Heat, Puzzling
In case you missed it each team analysis has a predominant theme. For XSV it was a glaring tactical deficiency in making the transition from a 7-man team focus to a Race To focus. For Infamous it was how ability on paper must translate into a cohesive unit in action to succeed. For Heat it will be about constructing–or reconstructing–a roster; fitting the new pieces of an invisible puzzle together into a winning team.
At the end of 2013 Heat lost 5 players with Jacob Edwards returning to Damage (after less than a season with Heat) and Bouchez moving into a management role and the three Russians; Fedorov, Kniazev & Solnyshkov. Filling those spots are Thomas Taylor, Ryan Moorhead, Tim Montressor, Greg Siewers and Keith DeVit. For those familiar with the pro game 4 of Heat’s 5 pick-ups are very high profile names that in terms of recognition and experience are a match for their losses. In addition Ryan and Tim have played with Monville and George before when they were Philly All Americans. The initial comparison looks pretty good. Top tier pro replacements with prior relationships with existing team members matches lost talent and minimizes chemistry concerns.
Looking a little closer the transition may not be that simple and the issue isn’t ability or star power, it’s role play.
In professional sports there is always some tension when draft day rolls around between filling a need–a perceived weakness in a specific position–and taking the best available talent. Which choice improves the team the most now and into the future? And, conversely, which choice has the least downside attached to it if it doesn’t work out? I have no doubt when the Heat were thinking about how to reload their roster they took a variety of factors into consideration including filling specific roles. But looking at the new roster there are a couple of relative weaknesses that will require some shuffling of the new pieces to work out.
Weakside play on the D-wire is likely to be inconsistent at best–especially early in the season. (Weakside refers to committing only two of the team’s five players to one wire or the other from the breakout.) The concern is twofold; Siewers’s and Moorhead’s strength is in the lead role, not the support (insert) and they didn’t play as much together as might be assumed since Ryan played quite a lot of snake last season for Impact. If it isn’t Greg and Ryan who is it? Maybe this works out but if it doesn’t the fixes are working different player combinations and more strong side D-wire breakouts. In the first case it’s players new to each other learning how to work together and in the second case it is a potential limitation when calling plays.
The other potential role weakness is the home shooter. (Despite the fact recent field layouts don’t have a “home” bunker there is a player 99% of the time filling some version of that role.) I see 3 (maybe 4) players capable of taking on that role. Two are carry overs from last year and received limited spins. Will they earn more opportunities or simply get them by default?
However those situations are resolved expect to see Heat utilize this year’s roster more completely and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Coach Trosen routinely going 8 deep on Sundays while pushing the action harder. Any significant roster changes alter team dynamics in unpredictable ways and force them to become a new team. Heat clearly hopes they’ve limited the impact of the changes but there is no way to predict how long or how difficult the process will be.
And finally, in the pre-season and into the first couple of events Heat will be experimenting with player combinations and line-ups discovering where their best results are likely to come from as the season continues. Take them down early ‘cus the odds are they’ll get better as the season progresses. The pieces fell into place for Heat the first time around. Will they again?
Next up, Damage. Hint: complacent.