The Overwatch League offseason is in full swing, and every team around the league is making moves in free agency. While teams like the Defiant, Eternal, and Outlaws, among many others, have already made a plethora of pickups, changes, trades, and signings, the New York Excelsior has remained relatively quiet thus far.
Over the course of the past year, New York has proven to be a team that can live on the brink of contention and success while falling ultimately just short in the playoffs – whether they be for a single stage or an entire season. Coming into the year, NYXL was favored to be a genuine threat to the entire OWL and a serious contender to take home the season’s title. However, after falling short of each Stage Final (as well as the Grand Final), even finishing as low as 8th in two Stage Playoffs, NYXL failed to climb the mountain of expectations that was set for the team back in the preseason.
And still, here we are, approximately three weeks into the preliminary stages of free agency, and the NYXL hasn’t made a single pickup. Outside of dropping former rising star Yeon-oh “Fl0w3R” Hwang and longtime off-tank Tae-hong “MekO” Kim, the team hasn’t made any direct roster changes. Of course, the departure of head coach Hyeon-sang “Pavane” Yu was a significant blow to the organization, especially when you factor in that he’s now with one of the team’s biggest rivals in the Spitfire.
But after a season where the ball was dropped and the team fell completely flat, perhaps a shake-up in the coaching role is warranted. In traditional sports, if a team underperforms, that burden falls squarely on the coach’s shoulders. Perhaps the NYXL is bringing that sort of mentality into the sphere of esports with a move like this.
The Excelsior is just a few key pieces away from being a serious threat to win a title in 2020. One of those major pieces that still remains unsigned is Jehong “Ryujehong” Ryu, the support for Seoul Dynasty who has been known as a serious playmaker throughout his lengthy Overwatch career. Perhaps a player like that – someone who can make an impact on a roster right off the bat – is what the NYXL needs.
Regardless, the team now has open holes in significant areas as coaches and players alike have been removed from the equation. But still, no moves have been made to fill them. Is the NYXL waiting for unrestricted free agency to begin on November 11? Or is the organization electing to take its time and survey all of its options before pulling the trigger? If that’s the case, the front office needs to start getting its finger ready. With several players off the board already, namely the grand prize in the off-tank lottery, Indy “Space” Halpern, the Excelsior’s window of opportunity this offseason is quickly closing. Sure, the team can still sign MekO in a similar vein to how the Fusion released and later re-signed Josh “Eqo” Corona.
What’s puzzling is the fact that New York decided to give Flow3r and MekO their outright releases as opposed to concocting some sort of trade with another team. There are certainly other teams out there right now who could use the talent. Even still, as the NYXL moves past a year of shortcomings, “what-if’s”, and failure to reach expectations, it’s obvious that a blockbuster move that puts the team over the top and back into the sphere of contention needs to be made before it’s too late.
Photo Credit: Blizzard Entertainment, The Overwatch League