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At the midpoint, some thoughts on Luca Sbisa

Monday, October 20, 2008

Following the Flyers’ preseason game at the Spectrum against Carolina, I mentioned the play of a young defenseman trying to make the squad. In that game, Luca Sbisa impressed me with his ability to assert himself on the ice. Most rookies fail to find that balance between aggression and a cautious fear of making mistakes. Just think back to Steve Downie’s rookie campaign, fraught with the early suspension for the hit on Dean McAmmond and the numerous times Downie overplayed a situation in an attempt to impress.

Sbisa rarely falls into those traps. It isn’t so much that he never errs on the ice – he does – but that he keeps a cool head when things get chaotic. Rather than get flustered after a mistake, he stays with the play. Watch this clip from Saturday night’s match up with the San Jose Sharks. Sbisa is unable to reach the puck behind the net. As soon as he sees Vaananen coming to hit the Shark, Sbisa shifts back around his own net and uses his body to nudge Jonathan Cheechoo out of the crease. It’s a subtle but vital move. Sbisa prevent Cheechoo from being able to handle a rebound without incurring a penalty – not a rookie play by any stretch of the imagination.

And while he may not have any assists yet, Sbisa will be a major weapon in the Flyers’ transition game someday. The kid discovers spaces in the neutral zone, finding the man ready to break out from the far blue line. That type of vision cannot be taught.

As if that weren’t enough, Sbisa has the grit necessary to thrive in Philadelphia. I caught this video on YouTube from a game in the juniors. The Schenn mentioned is actually Brayden, younger brother of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect Luke Schenn. But none of that lessens the hit or its aftermath. 

If you had spoken to me after that game in the Spectrum, I would have told you that Sbisa would be sent down to Lethbridge before his 10 game trial period had expired. Not because he wasn’t good enough to remain in the NHL, but because the Flyers as a rule tend to favor veteran players over untested rookies. It’s also quite the gamble to keep Sbisa since he can’t be sent down to the Phantoms.

Given the Flyers’ struggles through the first five games and the injuries they’ve sustained in the defense corps, I believe Sbisa has a window of opportunity to stay in Black and Orange this season. Like many rookies, he will probably hit a wall at some point. But if he can show that he belongs among the Flyers’ top four, and they feel he remain in that position for an entire NHL season, then the sky’s the limit.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. j2i2m22 permalink
    Tuesday, October 21, 2008 1:26 am

    Hey I’m from Lethbridge, so I’ve seen Sbisa in action, and I never thought he really stood out that much out there. But he’s obviously doing right by himself if he sticking in the bigs. What do you think are his chances of staying past the 9 games?

  2. The Frozen Fan permalink
    Tuesday, October 21, 2008 6:00 am

    That’s the tricky thing about scouting – seeing both where the guy is today, and where his potential could take him.

    I think there’s a definite possibility that he’ll stay with the team. John Stevens has used Sbisa as a top four D-man, even putting him out during the final minute of play on multiple occasions. A few times during the road trip, the opposition got their top line out against the kid and he held his own.

    If the decision had to be made today, Holmgren might just keep Sbisa. That would fly directly in the face of how the Flyers have managed their players historically, but this team can’t lose him on defense right now.

    If the Flyers don’t get their act together and Homer makes a move for a big D-man, then I say Sbisa goes back to Lethbridge.

    Either way, it’s been a great showing for the kid.

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  1. Notes on the Phillies and Luca Sbisa « The Frozen Fan

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