Yahoo Esports' 2017 NA LCS Spring Rookie of the Split, Coach of the Split, and Most Valuable Player

No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon stretches on the NA LCS stage (Riot Games/lolesports)
No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon stretches on the NA LCS stage (Riot Games/lolesports)

Similar to our 2017 Spring Split All-NA LCS team, the Yahoo Esports staff voted on who should receive Rookie of the Split, Coach of the Split, and MVP of the split. The vote tallies of Taylor Cocke, Kelsey Moser, and Emily Rand were compiled in an aggregate and submitted.

Cloud9’s rookie jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia (Riot Games/lolesports)
Cloud9’s rookie jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia (Riot Games/lolesports)

Rookie of the Split: Cloud9’s Juan “Contractz” Arturo Garcia

Runners-up: Echo Fox’s Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham, Immortals’ Cody “Cody Sun” Sun

Taylor: At the beginning of the split, Contractz took over a role previously held by some of the most proficient players the NA LCS had ever seen. The Cloud9 jungle spot was previously held by William “Meteos” Hartman, the wildly talented Lee “Rush” Yoon-jae, and even shotcalling mastermind Hai “Hai” Lam. For a rookie to step in and fill those shoes was a huge ask, and Contractz was able to pull it off. He had consistency issues, but he’s had the best first year of any rookie in North America.

Kelsey: Next to my colleagues, I look like the idiot hipster. I believe, however, that the best player is not always on the winning team. Not only was Akaadian fundamental to Echo Fox’s small improvements and shifts in playstyle in his rookie split, but he provided a surprising understanding of lane flow and how to use the jungle. Even against Cloud9 and Taylor and Emily’s candidate for rookie of the split, Contractz, Akaadian appeared to out think his opponent in games despite some of his laners suffering. While not completely Contractz’s fault, he seemed to lack some understanding of when his lanes had pressure and how to track the enemy jungler, so I gave my first place vote to Akaadian.

Emily: For as much talk as there was about North American talent in the 2017 NA LCS Spring Split, there were only three NA rookies who played the entirety of the season for their teams: Contractz, Akaadian, and Cody Sun. As Taylor mentioned, Contractz had some rather large shoes to fill and did so admirably. Although he occasionally makes reckless, rookie mistakes, he recovers quickly. Despite a few cracks, he also appears to be fitting in well with the rest of his teammates, making the transition from Meteos as smooth as possible. That being said, both Akaadian and Cody Sun deserve recognition as well. The former hard-carried his team to victory numerous times, and the latter improved steadily throughout the split with a strong work ethic and enthusiasm.

CLG coach Tony “Zikz” Grey (Riot Games/lolesports)
CLG coach Tony “Zikz” Grey (Riot Games/lolesports)

Coach of the Split: Counter Logic Gaming’s Tony “Zikz” Grey

Runners-up: Team SoloMid’s Parth “Parth” Naidu, Cloud9’s Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu

Taylor: Team SoloMid took a big hit this Spring with Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng departing the roster to take a split off. In his place, they brought in returning TSM member Jason “Wildturtle” Tran. The pressure of playing with a lesser AD carry while still rising up to the expectations set by putting on that TSM jersey is something that can only be relieved through strong coaching. For that reason, coach Parth “Parth” Naidu’s ability to keep things on track after a slow start earns him my vote for coach of the split.

Kelsey: I chose Zikz as Coach of the Split. Counter Logic Gaming continue to find ways to surprise in the early game and maintain their environment despite how easy it may become for resentment to brew with the same roster. CLG also had a slight uptick toward the end of the split once again, allowing them to perform better when seeding was on the line.

Emily: In a player-driven game like League of Legends, it’s near-impossible to determine a coach’s impact on their team from an outsider’s perspective.

It’s already difficult evaluating an individual players’ impact and feeling confident enough about it to vote them a most valuable player. That’s where metrics and criteria come in. At the very least, when nominating or voting for a player, I have hard evidence to fall back upon: VODs, specific plays, statistics, etc. There are so many tools at my disposal to support a specific pick. I don’t think that League of Legends has nearly as many tools as it could have for looking at the game itself, but there are at least a few that can help support or refute a point.

A coach has none of this. Outside of results, we can only speculate as to what a coach does on a specific team, and much of that cannot be shared publicly. In such a player-driven game — one that’s still in its infancy and cannot be adequately compared to any traditional sport — all we as outside observers have are results.

League of Legends also has fewer games than many of the traditional sports — where coaches are also hotly debated — that the community often use in comparison, American football aside. For that specific sport there is a massive coaching staff and a myriad of moving parts automatically included in the recognition of the head coach. Not only do we have to heavily base our opinions on results in League of Legends, but there aren’t many results to compare in the grand scheme of things. And, when you combine these factors with LoL’s player-driven unit of five, selecting a coach is troublesome at best.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t coaches that deserve recognition or praise, but that selecting one is a difficult endeavor where it feels like choosing the “wrong” coach is easier than choosing the “right” one. I wish this specific award was at least voted on after the playoffs or that it was made an organizational award celebrating a staff’s success rather than that of an individual coach.

P1 Arrow, Noh
P1’s Noh “Arrow” Dong-hyeon before a match. (Jeremy Wacker)

Most Valuable Player of the Split: Phoenix1’s No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon

Runners-up: Team SoloMid’s Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, Cloud9’s Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong

Taylor: When most AD carries in the North American LCS were complaining about the state of the role at the beginning of the split, Arrow was hard carrying games. When Phoenix1 was struggling with consistency issues due to their fluctuating roster, Arrow was the rock of the team, always ready to do whatever his team needed from the bottom lane. He excelled on both hard carries and utility AD carries, perpetually on the brink of putting his entire team on his back and hauling them over to the Nexus for a victory.

Often, the player who is awarded the MVP trophy is someone on a team capable of winning a championship. However, it’s safe to say that no one expected Phoenix1 to take it all. Nonetheless, no player in the league had a larger impact on his team than Arrow. He forced engages when his tank teammates were hesitating. When his other carries were faltering, he picked up the slack. The de facto leader of his team, Arrow had more influence over a single roster than any other player in the NA LCS.

Kelsey: I chose Bjergsen as my MVP for the 2017 NA LCS Spring split. While the team adapted to playing around Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, Bjergsen’s roams got him leads and kept the team in the game. Bjergsen is almost always where he needs to be, taking over the map and leading the team in fights. There’s a reason Team SoloMid occasionally risk so much to deny blue buff from the enemy mid and allow Bjergsen to maximize pressure to get ahead.

As for runners-up, I chose Impact and Arrow. While Cloud9 eventually got to a point this split where they could adapt to accommodate Jeon “Ray” Jiwon’s style, a good portion of the split felt as if the team relied heavily upon Impact’s consistencies. He often got a lead in lane, and his ability to 1-4 generally allowed him to transition well into Teleport flanks that won the game for Cloud9 on picks like Maokai. Over time, Impact’s… impact lessened, but for the early split, he felt like the MVP of the league.

Arrow came in third largely for his strengths in teamfighting and his ability to guide multiple supports through laning phase during Phoenix1’s roster swap struggles. On top of that, he held mid well in 1-3-1s and often engaged for his team on utility AD carry picks. He not only did his duty as a traditional damage-dealing AD carry, but he managed to control fights with crowd control and zoning in the early season’s meta.

Emily: For my third-place choice, I selected Cloud9 support Andy “Smoothie” Ta, who by all accounts has stepped up his in-game leadership this split and is a huge voice in their communication system. His importance to C9 over the course of the season was second only to two other players’ value to their teams in my mind.

Bjergsen is almost always my default MVP. Call it “The Bjergsen Effect” or whatever you’d like, what Bjergsen brings consistent, inarguable value to Team SoloMid and keeps them in the NA LCS finals split after split, year after year.

However, this split, he was second on my list to Phoenix1’s AD carry Arrow.

Arrow has been a menace throughout the 2017 spring season, posting massive numbers while weaving in and out of teamfights with ease, all while playing with multiple supports and two different junglers. Although they collapsed against Cloud9 in the semifinals, Phoenix1 wouldn’t have been near that semifinals spot with another player in the AD carry position.