First things first. Congrats to Mike & the Dynabrats on getting the first win of the season. It was well earned. (Yes, I'm sticking with Dynabrats because of the Hinman youth movement.)
I don't know how well this post is going to go over. I guess we'll all find out together. Btw, if you're hoping for dirt you are out of luck. The last thing I need is to antagonize (any further) the other pro teams. But you never know, some peeps have delicate sensibilities.
The new kids on the block (CEP) benefited from the rules changes as first event pros--yes, that's an opinion, feel free to disagree--but also gave indications they have some real potential. In the recent past a large part of the transition for newcomers was adjusting to the pace of the pro game. The Galveston field and new field dimensions neutralized that factor and allowed CEP, for the most part, to play within their comfort zone. More importantly the team demonstrated it has the ability to evaluate its own performance and make positive changes and improve on the fly. Now they just need to get used to the officiating and cut down on the penalties.
It's apparent Vicious used the off season to build on lessons learned last year as they came to Galveston and played very consistent team paintball. The execution of their game plan was of a high order and they played confidently yet within their limitations. If they continue to play like they did in Galveston they will have successfully made the transition to competitive (and dangerous) pro team. Kudos to Greg as well for maximizing the team's results and minimizing their weaknesses.
Much the same might be said of the new (or is that the old?) and improved X-Factor. They have technical similarities to Vicious but are, I think, less predictable and more versatile. And I fully expect them to break through at some point during the season. They are a well-balanced team and as long as they can maintain their focus and keep a unified eye on the prize will always be competitive.
I'm somewhat undecided on the Ironmen. Don't get me wrong, I think SK is doing an excellent job and the mix of youth and experience is good. And it's hard to argue with results. The Men came in and knocked off the Legion and, until the last point was scored in their last prelim match, had a chance to move on. With the loss of Oliver and with Mikko missing Galveston I doubt anyone--except the guys on the team--expected the Ironmen to be that tough. And yet I remain unconvinced. The new field is a great equalizer. It mitigated the explosive potential of some of the teams. At the same time some of the young Ironmen have some real physical tools. Overall I think the new field is a net plus for the less experienced and/or less physically gifted teams. But if the kids focus on learning and the Old Guard remains hungry the team will challenge everyone they compete against.
The new rules do not favor the Red Legion. The new field slows the game down. (Have I mentioned that before?) (If I had a nickel for every time I ...) It also tilts the balance back toward the mental game--not all the way but a little closer to equilibrium. Of course the mental game needs to be accompanied by the will to act and take risks. And the lack of an extended opportunity to break down and evaluate each layout minimizes one of the team's long time strengths. Does this mean they won't win anymore? Not at all. Like the rest of the pro teams they will adapt and find new ways to be successful. It would be rather ironic though if their ultimate solution is to loosen the reigns on (some of) their players.
Infamous is not only a very experienced team (perhaps the oldest team on average in the league?) but more importantly that core of experience has a tremendous will to succeed that is the key to their results and consistent competitiveness. It almost doesn't matter how old any of them are or whether or not they can match the athleticism of some of the other teams. They can't; too many lumberjacks, not enough pirates or ninjas. But they continue to compete and be successful. Something of a pro's pro team. The field change won't be a problem for them, it may even be a plus--although I hesitate to give the changes much of an impact because Infamous has a proven track record that covers both leagues and every sort of field imaginable.
A number of teams underwent significant roster changes in the off season; Shock, Impact & Dynasty. Clearly Dynasty made the transition with hardly a hiccup. The return of Ollie, a core of champions, experienced and talented young players and a willingness to relinquish control to Hinman's leadership looks like it's accomplished exactly what was hoped for--and needed. The flipside of change is that it's always a roll of the dice. In any team sport the intangible of chemistry can override all other circumstances. Beyond that it frequently takes time for a new mix of players to work out how best to play together and when you consider the limited time available now to learn the competition field it's not surprising that all the pieces didn't fall seamlessly into place for Impact & Shock. So, while Galveston results may not have met expectations those results are also no real indicator of future performance. In Impact's case the team also brought in former Philly coach Jason Trosen which added another layer of change. Even so, Impact's results, while likely disappointing, were still competitive. In Shock's case their results are definitely shocking. A little bad luck and perhaps a little complacency and you have a recipe for an unexpected disaster. If nothing else it should serve as a warning to the other pro teams that the new rules and field are a leveler and that the division may exhibit unprecedented parity this season as a result. Fortunately Shock is young, hungry & resilient and they will fight back.
Lastly we come to Damage. Damage is a laid back team. It is both a strength and a weakness. There is steel under the relaxed exterior but no killer instinct, no stoked furnace of desire constantly burning to be the best. That doesn't mean that winning or losing don't matter. It does. But it does mean the team must rely on its strengths and execute the game plan with greater consistency and more confidence. The greatest accomplishment in any sport isn't reaching the top--it's staying there. After being focused (frequently for years) on achieving a singular goal the tendency after the fact is to relax. And that can lead to complacency because it's hard to find the same motivation, to stay hungry. The one real weakness Damage has is a lack of internal leadership among the players. This sky remains the limit--the question is: How bad do they want it?