Sunday, November 23, 2014

Houston Heat By The Numbers

In VFTD's last post, 'Is The Microwave The X-Factor,' I used a recent Champions level pick-up to make a point or two about how teams should think about improving their rosters. Given that I have a penchant for mercilessly beating a dead horse you might reasonably be expecting this post to be more of the same. It won't be. Instead I want to explore some of the difficulties Heat will face this coming season because of the roster changes they made this off season. (I know, it seems counter-intuitive on its face but it really isn't.) Remember it took most of the season for Art Chaos to figure things out.
Let's begin by taking a look back at the original Heat roster. The original Heat roster featured three Russians; Federov, Kniazev and Solnyshkov, a few experienced role-playing pros plus some fresh talent from the divisional ranks that spawned the pro team. (For those of you who insist on calling every pro a superstar my identification of guys like Slowiak, George and Monville as role-players isn't a knock. The Russians played roles too but are both more versatile and brought more winning experience to the team.) The resulting team was built around the Russians with the role-players providing situational flexibility as the inexperienced talent developed in practice with limited spins in match situations. That Heat team was also deliberate, most comfortable with steady, error-free paintball which was arguably a carry over stylistically from Coach Trosen's All Americans background (as a player and coach.) It also proved to be a winning formula.
The "new" Heat retains the players brought in last season to replace the missing Russians; Montressor, Moorhead, Siewers and Taylor plus original Heat members Bouchez and a returning Ryan Smith (who played last season with VCK.) With the return of the original Russian players plus Berdnikov.
One of the key issues Heat struggled with last season was that the replacement stars (for the departed Russians) only superficially filled similar roles. The issues that will manifest as a result this season are lines, roles and spins.
The original Heat ran the 3 Russians plus George and Monville paired on the snake side as their primary line. Now that the team has 4 Russians they only have a single slot to fill for their primary line. (Unless one of the Russians doesn't play up to their standard they almost have to be played together given their experience together and the language issue.) With a single slot available what role is filled? While all the Russians have versatile games whoever fills the last slot will determine the roles of the other players to a significant degree. If it's Moorhead is he still predominantly playing snake wire? If so who plays that wire with him? If it's Siewers, who normally plays D-sire, it likely changes the pairings. Last season the majority of the snake wire spins went to Moorhead (75% of all points played), George (72% of all points played) and Monville (53% all points played). That won't happen in 2015.
Last season the Russian foursome played between 88% - 81% of all points played by Art Chaos. If those numbers are even close in 2015 with Heat it doesn't leave much opportunity for the rest of the roster except whoever fills the primary line slot with the Russians. Any lesser ratio of points played is contrary to past Heat practice and raises different concerns. Last season with the rotation opened up a bit players like Montressor, Bouchez and Taylor all played less than 40% of the available points while as a team Heat under-performed expectations. One reason was because the replacement players skill sets weren't consistent with the players they lost and as a group they had an over-abundance at some positions while being weak in others.
Finally there's the question of pace of play. Heat prefers deliberate and the PSP seems determined to try and push teams to play faster. The issue isn't whether or not Heat can adjust--because I think they can--but will they or will they try to sustain their pace of play? (Remember how Impact opened the PSP season? Same situation but to their credit Impact realized very quickly they needed to make some adjustments and went on to have an exemplary year.)
To sum up: despite having a terrific roster on paper the team is going to have a number of serious issues to contend with even if all the players take a selfless attitude and are collectively determined to serve the best interests of the team. But if discontent sets in at some point or success doesn't happen right away this roster could implode or quietly undermine every effort to re-build a winner. Ironically the one thing that may unite the team is money. If rumors are correct Heat players will make more as a group than the entire budgets of virtually all the other pro teams. And it's a little easier to set the ego aside if you're traveling the world and making a viable living playing--or not playing--paintball.  


Nick Slowiak said...

They'll win in 2015. Discontent though, yup.

Baca Loco said...

Hey Nick
You trying to sneak a comment past me?
They may get a win (or more) The only team on the rise is the Ironmen and whatever some of the new kids can muster.
Even so the Malloy Factor is gonna be tricky to handle. Fill roles with your four Russians--are you completely happy as soon as you plug in the non-Russian fifth player? Admittedly there are worse problems to have but their season could turn on how that's resolved.

Nick Slowiak said...

Not trying to sneak anything Baca.

Just forgot to read up for a few weeks.

I don't see it as tricky. They will play the four Russians and add whichever 5th body to the mix, it won't matter. They cannot afford to not play them if the end goal is to win. Those 4 pretty much won the Cali event and the same can be said for WC.

They'll still win an event in 2015, possibly more, but I'm going to give them 1.