Fans initially met TSM’s outline for the League of Legends Championship Series 2022 Season with hopeful skepticism, especially concerning the decision to sign mechanically skilled rookies Wei “Shenyi” Zi-Jie and Zhu “Keaiduo” Xiong. Now, with a 1-8 record after the first round-robin, the team is undoubtedly undergoing its worst-ever season in the league.
LCS roster update pic.twitter.com/nFWWO3CfXL— TSM FTX (@TSM) February 16, 2022
On Feb. 16, after a 0-4 start to the spring split, TSM announced Shenyi would spend time in Academy while he continued to adjust to North America at “a more comfortable pace,” while TSM Academy support Wang “Yursan” Sheng-Yu would be promoted to the main team. TSM vice president of esports Dominic Kallas further elaborated on Shenyi’s benching in the TSM Discord.
“Shenyi needs more time to adjust to NA and improve within the TSM environment,” Kallas said. “We feel that him working with the academy team will help him adjust and settle. This will smooth out some chemistry issues, taking off some pressure from the current communication structure.”
However, with nine more games left to play in the split, TSM head coach Wong “Chawy” Xing Lei said Shenyi will return to play on stage with the LCS squad again this weekend against FlyQuest and Golden Guardians.
“The team has a lot of issues that we’re facing, but we’re trying to take [things] one step at a time,” said Chawy. “Since he’s been in Academy, I think Shenyi has made several improvements in addition to communication. We believe he’s ready to come back to the main roster.”
According to Chawy, during Week 2, Shenyi locked in a champion on stage without communicating with the team or coaches. TSM coaching staff followed up with Shenyi to further discuss the matter, but his attitude was deemed “negative and disrespectful.”
Chawy further disclosed that the team has been working with Shenyi to help him improve as a teammate and get back to the LCS team as soon as possible. The initial plan was for him to return to the LCS within two weeks.
“This is the main reason why he was benched, not because of his gameplay,” said Chawy. “It was more of his attitude and respect toward the team and criticism we give him… I think this two weeks he has really shown a lot of improvement.”
TSM Assistant General Manager Yang “Glen” Po-Jen added that Shenyi’s return to LCS was requested by players, and in addition to this change, Keaiduo will temporarily move to the Academy team with TSM Academy mid laner Ji “Takeover” Cha Hyeun-min playing in LCS, effective immediately.
“In addition to Shenyi coming back to the TSM LCS roster this week, Keaiduo will be temporarily moving to LCS Academy and Takeover would be moving to the LCS main roster,” Glen said. “This change was made as the team feels that Keaiduo needs more time to train in a less stressful environment. We are aware it is not ideal to be making this many roster changes mid-season, but in our current position, it’s critical that Keaiduo be given time to work on several key development areas as we try to end the season on a high note.”
Addressing the fans
The TSM fanbase, and LCS community at large, have levied criticism against the org in recent weeks over lack of further communication on their LCS team’s situation. Chawy said the team has just been trying to have plenty of discussions with upper management to understand the plan going forward.
“Currently, we’re also just trying to take [things] one step at a time hoping to just win some games,” Chawy said. “But at the same time, we also look forward to the summer split, because right now I think we are way too behind to try to catch up.”
When asked about the team’s continued commitment to the current starting lineup, Chawy said he hopes to continue working with the current starting five.
“The team was formed differently from how we expected it to be made,” said Chawy. “So we’re trying to configure out how we can work around this team and what’s the best for this team and then see what’s TSM’s plan for the future.”
At the same time, Chawy stressed the importance of looking out for his players despite the public’s desire for information.
“I think some things behind the scenes are just very hard for us to put in public because it might destroy some player’s future,” Chawy said. “We try to protect our players, to protect our people, and we just hope to do whatever is best for the team.”
Chawy, who retired as a player in 2018 after playing professionally since 2012, said his goal as a coach has always been to qualify for the World Championship with his team and play on the international stage. He wants to be a coach that’s able to set his players up for success in and out of the game.
“Back then, there wasn’t good coaches,” Chawy said. “I always wanted to be the one for the young players to help them get good results, get good contracts, you know? Try to give them a good future. So, that’s always my aim — to help the players improve and then get the best results.”
For the best shot at playoff qualification, TSM must win all of their remaining games in the LCS regular season. That’s a difficult road to travel for any team, but Chawy expressed his apologies to fans about how the season unfolded and wants them to know TSM aren’t ready to give up.
“We are extremely sorry to the fans, because this result is the worst that TSM has gotten. I think we all feel very sad about it,” said Chawy. “We promise to be looking forward and not backward. Our plan is to make sure to get everything ready and prepared to find the best team possible for us, the best playstyle — everything by summer split — and then our hope is still to get to playoffs and hopefully Worlds. Hopefully, everyone can still be patient, and we’re sorry that this had happened. We are still really trying our best. The coaching staff, the players… we’re all really doing our best.”
This weekend, TSM will play FlyQuest on Saturday at approx. 5:30 p.m. ET and Golden Guardians on Sunday at approx. 7:30 p.m. ET.