I'll go worst to first but I want to say that I feel theres a massive gap between the top 5 (maybe 6) and bottom 5 (maybe 4) teams. The bottom teams appear to have no solid identity, direction, and likely missed the boat on a lot of the free agents they might have wanted or some other managerial shortcoming.
C Tier Teams:
Roster: SmittyJ, Santorin, Caedrel, Sheriff, Sprattel, Veteran (Coach)
Odds to win split (via the sports books): 50 to 1
H2 what... the hell is this? For an organization with as much success as H2k as had this roster is not exactly exciting or hopeful. Maybe the savvy, underachieving veterans can guide the young carries to success or maybe they'll get stomped and the new kids will have to put the old ones on their back. Not an easy ask for a couple of kids who are effectively rookies. There isn't a single elite player, hell there isn't a single above average player on this team besides maybe Santorin and it would take multiple people VASTLY overperforming expectation to have even a remote shot at playoffs (Sprattel and Caedrel are the most likely). I'm not buying this squad and the books aren't either. They look like they were thrown together at the last minute and that's a bad formula especially if you don't have elite talent to carry you.
9) Unicorns of Love
Roster: WhiteKnight, Kold (Trashy), Exileh, Samux, Totoro, Sheepy (Coach)
Odds to win split (via the sports books): 12 to 1
I have no idea what the books are thinking at 12 to 1 other than the fact that people love this team for their novelty. Trashy, now known as Kold, as by far the best player on this team and while I thought he was quite good last split he wasn't even a top 3 jungler to me so he's not quite on the level of a Maxlore type where he can carry a team alone. Totoro was one of the most two-faced players in Korea, Exileh may have been the worst professional mid laner in the combined major regions, and Samux is average at best when compared to the ADCs from this region. WhiteKnight has been hyped over and over and over and we finally get to see him so if this team is going to overperform this ranking he'll be the reason. I'm just not buying this team. They have a fair amount of upside if you consider that Exileh can't possibly perform much worse than he has so far in his career but I think that's the optimistic side of things. This ranking could change if they find a new mid laner but it's been long enough that I'm going to stay bullish on this call and say they're bottom two. You can't be a good team in any region with a mid lane this weak and his outer lanes aren't good enough to pick up that slack unless WhiteKnight is some kind of god. Trashy can't do this all himself.
8) Team Vitality
Roster: Cabochard, Gilius, Jiizuke, Minitroupax, Jactroll, YamatoCannon (Coach)
Odds to win split (via the sports books): 20 to 1
Maybe Vitality knows something everyone else does in these carry players but I'm not going to bet on that. Typically Yamato's teams do really well in their first split or two and then fall off. He's like the Peter Laviolette of League of Legends; his players seem to burn out and stop playing for him or other teams figure out his systems within a set time but until they do they're excellent. I like Cabo and Gilius as players (and swag lord trash talkers) but I just don't see it with this lineup. Gilius seems crazy confident but he literally always is. Unless this team is another iteration of the YamatoCannon first split special I don't see them making playoffs.
7) Giants Gaming
Roster: Ruin, Djoko, Betsy, Steelback, Targamas
Odds to win split (via the sports books): 40 to 1
As with some of these other bottom teams I'm not completely well versed on every single player but this team doesn't really pop off the page and a lot of their signings happened VERY late in the process. This Giants organization perplexes me. All last year they preached that they wanted to maintain a full Spanish lineup and then they went back on it, and now they're without a single Spanish speaker. It's not really a knock on the team directly but teams with shakey management that players can't trust tend to get the slimmest pickings in free agency because nobody wants to play for you and while it means less in esports it still means something. Combine that with the fact that I'm just not a big fan of the known quantities on this roster (Betsy, Djoko, and Steelback) and I can't give them any better than this BUT seeing as they have three veterans and two of them are average to above average in Betsy and Steelback I'll give this team 7th.
B Tier Teams:
6) Roccat Gaming
Roster: Profit, Memento, Blanc, HeaQ, Norskeren
Odds to win split (via the sports books): 20 to 1
I'm going to put Roccat here but I'll admit this is more of a gut feeling and maybe a stupid one. I think the bottom of Europe is pretty terrible overall (Roccat included) but of these bottom teams, Roccat have the most upside and I'm going to buy into that however unreasonable it may be. The question here is communication and synergy. Korean solo lanes and Scandanavian jungle and bot lane. Profit didn't look particularly great on NIP last split which makes me skeptical but this was a premier Korean solo queue player that spent a split with the legendary SK Telecom organization. I'm giving some weight to the "it can't be worse" argument here but he's been in Europe for twice as long now as he did at the start of Summer. Blanc has some brief LCK starting experience on Jin Air, a point to which you don't get without being promising as a talent. He is a fellow Korean solo queue star that Profit can perhaps guide in the adjustment to Europe and in in-game communication. Norskeren was a sought after support prospect for a lot of teams and was maybe the most intriguing prospect besides Upset in free agency. The upside is there and I'm going to bet maybe they meet at least SOME of that after a rough start to push for playoffs.
A Tier Teams:
5) Splyce Gaming:
Roster: Odoamne, Xerxe, Nisqy, Kobbe, Kasing, Peter Dun (Coach)
Odds to win the split (via the sports books): 9 to 1
Three solid players in Odoamne, Nisqy, and Kobbe, a seemingly crestfallen veteran looking to reignite the spark, and... just an average jungler guy is sadly better than half of the EU LCS right now. Nisqy gets a lot of respect from other European mids which means something and one of the constants is that people think he's got so much more potential than he's gotten to show. If Nisqy can step up to the next level and Kasing can recapture at least some of his former glory (remember when he was the best support in EU?), this team could go somewhere but I think they're just a solid bet to make playoffs and not much more. Splyce have a high enough floor for me to put them a cut above the bottom 5 but I also think their ceiling isn't quite as high as Roccat and MAYBE Giants as well.
4) Misfits Gaming
Roster: Alphari, Maxlore, Sencux, Hans Sama, Mikyx, Daku (Coach)
Odds to win the split (via the sports books): 9 to 2 (4.5:1)
I'm not in alignment with the books here but they're probably relying on bettors looking at Misfits' run at Worlds. I still think this is a solid team. They weren't winning based on tremendous lanes, they were winning with great game planning, a good read on the metagame, and Maxlore performing like a world class jungler. The question I have with this squad is whether or not their downgraded (in my opinion) replacements will matter if Misfits team based play directed by Maxlore can prevail. I was never a huge fan of PowerofEvil but Sencux is a downgrade to me and unless Sprattel finally performs like the solo queue superstar everyone hypes him up to be Sheriff is going to struggle as well. I'm betting the teamwork and synergy aspect won't prevail but this is still a collection of solid players that are, overall, a cut above the bottom tier of Europe's pool. Add a top tier jungler and I think they're a playoff team AT WORST but I'm not sure they have the same upside that betting markets seem to be giving them.
3) FC Schalke 04
Roster: Vizicsacsi, Pridestalker, Nukeduck, Upset, Vander, Krepo (Coach)
Odds to win the split (via the sports books): 6 to 1
A solid roster with a good mix of veterans and prospects that will benefit from the rest of the region being extraordinarily weak. I'm putting them at 3rd under the assumption that Upset and Pridestalker are just replacement level. The two of them have a TON of upside and if they can meet the hype they're getting this team could take the split down. If the perfect storm happens and Nukeduck can recapture some of his previous greatness (not that he's been particularly bad), then the sky is the limit for this team and I could see them becoming the new team to beat in Europe come the end of the year.
2) G2 E-sports
Roster: Wunder, Jankos, Perkz, Hjarnan, Wadid, Grabbz (Coach)
Odds to win the split (via the sports books): 4 to 1
I think people are going to be down on G2 because they've only returned one player but that player is the best player in Europe (Perkz) and the four new players are all top tier (for Europe). There's a chance this team has synergy issues but they have the players and their roster makes sense. I could be wrong by having them a tier below Fnatic but I want to see a split from them before I put them there.
S Tier Teams:
Roster: sOAZ, Broxah, Caps, Rekkles, Hylissang, Dylan Falco (Coach)
Odds to win the split (via teh sports books): 7 to 4 (1.75:1)
Fnatic have continuity, three or maybe four of the individual strongest players in the entire league in Rekless, Caps, and sOAZ (and Hylissang with Mithy gone). Stylistically the replacements fit and compliment the strengths and weaknesses perfectly and the rest of the region has weakened while they have strengthened. To me Fnatic are in a tier of their own. To me the only teams that could take them down are G2 and FC Schalke from day one and anybody else would have to vastly overachieve my personal expectations.
Preseason Bets and Predictions:
Value Bet to Win the Split: Roccat Gaming at 20 to 1 (alternate: FC Schalke 04 at 6 to 1)
This bet is meant to get the most bang for your buck. A team that isn't likely to win but is perhaps the most likely of the unlikely choices to do so. I think this Roccat roster has a surprising amount of upside. It's not unreasonable to think the Korean solo laners could come in and just run wild on people. Historically these two haven't done that but the level of competition isn't exactly through the roof here. Norskeren and Memento are really promising prospects that a lot of teams were trying to acquire and HeaQ was surprisingly good last season. Not very likely but If I had to pick a big underdog it'd be Roccat. Schalke is the alternate pick because I think their infrastructure spending, overall quality of players, and clear team identity could lead to them overcoming heavy favorites Fnatic.
Spring Split MVP: Caps (Fnatic)
To me Fnatic are a cut above the rest of the league this split partially because of the known quantities but if you look at the strengths of the next few strongest teams it all flows through the mid lane. I'm not super high on Nukeduck but he could return to form with a good roster around him and become an absolute monster like he did years ago but I'm moreso referring to Perkz. If Fnatic is going to win this split G2 is going to be the primary competition and Caps is going to have to outperform Perkz. He's young, he's shown promising talent, and just needs to grow into being a professional player and make more mature decisions in game to reach his full level and he's close. I think he arrives this season.
Biggest Disappointment: Unicorns of Love
12 to 1? Seriously? Has anybody even looked at this team because I doubt they have. The public loves UoL. They're goofy, play weird stuff, and sometimes win and people like that but they're never really that good and that was when they at least had good players. This is a bad team with a single good player, MAYBE two if a prospect in WhiteKnight erupts onto the scene. I don't see this team even making playoffs, in fact I have them as one of the worst two teams in the league. STAY AWAY!