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There’s a general rule in competition — whether sports, esports or anything of the like — “don’t trade away or release your best player.” However, even with this rule of thumb in place, teams have continually done just that.

The Edmonton Oilers of the NHL traded away Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player to ever step on a patch of ice. The New England Patriots let Tom Brady, a six-time world champion, walk away from the franchise. And, a few weeks ago, the Dallas Empire benched, and then traded, the face of their franchise Cuyler “Huke” Garland.

The Dallas Empire claimed that the team was unable to move forward with Huke on the roster. They replaced him with Tyler “FeLo” Johnson, a substitute who was competing in Challengers. With such a huge move, it’s plausible to say that the Dallas Empire have the most to prove at this week’s Stage 3 Major on Thursday, May 13.

Dallas Empire have more to prove than ever

Though the community doesn’t know what occurred behind closed doors, trading Huke doesn’t make much sense. The Empire were a top-three team with Huke in the lineup before trading him away to their rival LA Thieves; a team that could very well surpass them in the CDL standings. Also, LA and Dallas could match up at the Stage 3 Major, which would be one of the most highly anticipated series in recent memory.

All these possibilities culminate this week at the major. There, Dallas will have a real chance to show that they made the right decision in trading Huke and subbing in FeLo. However, the Empire need to make a serious run in this weekend’s tournament.

Dallas Empire
The Empire roster that started the 2021 year. | Provided by CDL

At the Stage 2 Major, Dallas finished in the top three. They were dominated in the losers finals by the eventual champion Toronto Ultra. At this upcoming major, there seems to be much pressure on the Empire’s new roster coming close to that placement.

If they can win a few games at the major, the decision to trade Huke won’t look as questionable. However, if they flame out in two or three matches, the questions will be more prevalent than ever. This would be further magnified if Huke and the LA Thieves went on a run. After all, Dallas has had more practice time with FeLo than the Thieves have had with Huke.

Furthermore, it will be worth looking at how the Empire are able to keep up with dominant SMG players. With Huke on the roster, players like Seth “Scump” Abner and Tyler “aBeZy” Pharris could be better neutralized. With Indervir “iLLeY” Dhaliwal now taking over the other SMG role, fans will see whether Dallas can produce the same pressure and kills that Huke had provided. This went well against the Minnesota ROKKR in the previous home series but the question is whether it be consistent.

Simply put, the Empire have the most to prove to themselves and the community at the major. They traded one of the best players in the CDL. Now, they need to show that this choice was the right move. If they aren’t able to do that, the only way to justify letting Huke go would be to win the CDL Champs.

Dallas plays Atlanta FaZe in Round 1 of the Stage 3 Major winners bracket on Thursday, May 13.