Canucks Army Player Previews: Luca Sbisa

In many ways, Luca Sbisa is an asset that many teams covet. He’s big, he’s young, he’s physical, he’s a defenseman, and he has a first-round NHL entry draft pedigree. 

Then again, Cam Barker and Ryan Parent had the same things going for them. 

Sbisa has struggled to gain his footing in the NHL so far in his career, being relegated to the 9th D role in Anaheim last season, and ultimately cast off by the Ducks in the Ryan Kesler trade. Jim Benning and Willie Desjardins have given Sbisa every opportunity to show he deserves a top-6 role in Vancouver this upcoming season, but that hasn’t gone all that well so far. Can Sbisa finally live up to his potential and become a legitimate NHL player? Or will he fail to make a good impression in what may very well be his last shot at being a long-term NHLer? Read past the jump.

2013-2014 Performance




Luca Sbisa actually had his best season in terms of puck possession since 2011-12, and the second best of his entire career last year. Even so, he was a frequent healthy scratch in favour of guys like Bryan Allen and Mark Fistric, and was bypassed on Anaheim’s depth chart by Sami Vatanen (who, to his credit, is quite good) by the end of the year. Sbisa was essentially the Ducks’ 9th defenseman last year on a blueline that prominently featured Ben Lovejoy, which is hardly ideal for a guy that Jim Benning and co. hope can be a regular top-6 contributor.

Still, Luca Sbisa was good with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, but then again, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are generally excellent with everyone. What’s probably more relevant for Sbisa is that he was a trainwreck when not playing with elite two-way NHL players – for example, he carried a 41% Fenwick when sharing the ice with another new Canuck in Nick Bonino, and a 38% Expected GoalsFor%, according to Matt Pfeffer’s Vancouver’s second to fourth lines probably aren’t significantly stronger than what the Ducks had last season, and carrying the 45.9% Corsi he had away from Corey Perry away from the Sedins just isn’t going to cut it. Not as a top-6 D, at least.

We do have to give credit where credit is due, and Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were better with Luca Sbisa than without him last year, but at the same time this isn’t consistent with Sbisa’s performance through his tenure with the Ducks. It may be simple small-sample Corsi variance, or it may be that Luca Sbisa legitimately improved last year. Both are possible, but judging by how Sbisa performed with average teammates, an improvement to a legitimate plus-possession player seems like the unlikelier scenario.

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2014-2015 Outlook

There is no reason why Luca Sbisa should earn the $2.9 million he’ll make this season, and no reason to think that he’ll be worth $2.9 million at any point in his career. Sure, he’s only 24 and can potentially improve, but as a former 1st round draft pick, it’s not as if Sbisa hasn’t been given the opportunity to become an everyday NHL defenseman. Guys should be near their peak at 24, not still a “project.” Fortunately, Sbisa’s contract is off the Canucks’ books at the end of this season, so while it’s a bad salary as of October 5th, 2014, it won’t have any affect on the Canucks’ ability to do business going forwards.

Rapid improvement is obviously the goal with Sbisa, as he’s never really been close to an average possession player. If you subscribe to the theory that a defenseman’s primary utility is to drive possession, either through suppressing opposing shot attempts through strong physical or positional play, or by moving the puck efficiently into the hands of forwards, then playing Sbisa in a prominent role is akin to starting Ondrej Pavelec in 50 games per season – sure, he does things, but those things aren’t really what you pay guys of that position to do.

Sbisa shouldn’t be in the Canucks’ top-6 defensemen, but there aren’t exactly many better options. Frank Corrado is unproven, and Yannick Weber isn’t great at evens either – although at least Weber has a 50% Fenwick season under his belt and brings some powerplay utility. Based on what we know about Sbisa right now, it doesn’t seem probable that his performance this upcoming season will justify another seven-figure contract offer. But stranger things have happened, and it’s possible that Sbisa can put it all together this season.

It’s really unlikely, but still possible.

  • bossram

    Good thing his mom didn’t name him Lucas. Really hate that name after that annoying commercial.

    ” Luuuucas! Luuuuucas! Luuuuucas! Luuuuucas! Luuucas! Luuuucas! Luuuuuuucas!

    God that name is annoying so hill-billyish. Any child named Lucas will be a no good brat and grow up to be a rabid pedophile.

    • bossram

      Im not sure anyone using an androgynous moniker like ‘Sandy’ should be calling out anyone. Since you seem to be an expert on profiling a ‘rabid pedophile’ simply by name, Im guessing this would be a ‘touchy’ subject for you.
      Uncle Terry is no longer welcome at Thanksgiving dinner.

  • bossram

    I expect him to be in a rotation with Stanton and Weber most of the season. If the Canucks are in or near the playoffs at trade deadline, then I could see a package deal including him and Markstrom or Ericsson for a true 5 or 6 dman, so that Corrado and Andersson have another year to develop and as they wait for Hutton. I don’t see him getting more than 12 minutes a game. I fully expect Hamhuis/Bieksa to get 23-24 and Edler/Tanev to get 23-24

  • bossram

    He hasn’t even been average bad so far this preseason. He’s been downright awful. I hope he gets better, but it’s hard to imagine him playing in the AHL right now.

  • bossram

    24 isn’t peak age for most D. He has some time to still mature but the indicators aren’t great, either in his stats or via the eye test. I don’t know if he’s another all-the-tools-no-toolbox guy or just lacks some of the skills necessary to bring it together but something’s missing with him. As a sixth defensemen I suppose he’s alright but given Weber’s (supposed) PP prowess, I think it might be better to use that sixth spot on him and use a heavier rotation of the other 5 d.

    • bossram

      I think the “Kesler Factor” will give him a place in this lineup, as new management won’t want to admit that they acquired a lemon.

      I hope that Benning keeps his eye on the waiver wire because Dalton Prout very likely could be waived in CLB and would be an improvment over either Sbisa or Weber in that 6 spot.

      CLB needs to waive 2 of Erixson,Prout and Goloubef. All of which have better trajectories than Sbisa.

      • bossram

        Sbisa was a salary dump in the Kesler trade.

        One would hope that most non-delusional Canuck fans have come to accept this by now.

        It would have been more beneficial to get a D prospect from either Pittsburgh or Anaheim than a more expensive version of Andrew Alberts…

  • bossram

    Sbisa is an enigma for sure. That outlet to Yakupov was as bad as it gets.

    He also can throw his weight around and make some good plays. Let’s just hope he can be a solid 3rd pairing Dman and keep the mistakes down,

    Hopefully the change of scenery will help as will the lowered expectations.

  • bossram


    At least let us see what the guy’s got.

    On Sbisa, yes, he should be gone by season’s end. I still don’t mind his inclusion, because it provides a one year audition to determine if a change of scenery can help him turn things around. So far, no evidence of that, but it’s a worthwhile gamble. Problem is that when inevitable back end injuries happen, he potentially ends up in the top 4, and that’s no bueno.

    Also sort of painful to see how little it took to acquire legit top 4 guys in Boychuk and Leddy this weekend.

    • bossram

      Relatively cheap, 2 2nds and potentially a 3rd is expensive to pick up a UFA D-man in the 5 spot for us but for NYI it is cheap.

      Nick Leddy was traded for a very good even if unknown prospect in Pokka. Again NYI could afford to trade away a good prospect for him but on our team he is still a 5D and an expensive one at that.

      • bossram

        Yeah I don’t think that price was cheap at all for Boychuk who is vastly overrated in a Shawn Thornton kind of way. I was surprised to see Leddy go for what he did but I suppose Quenneville’s lack of faith in him in the playoffs didn’t help his stock. I seriously doubt the Blackhawks would’ve traded him to us as some suggested earlier. They likely do regret that move last year of exposing Stanton in order to protect Kostka at the start of the season.

        I know it’s only been the preseason but Sbisa is the worst d-man I’ve seen don our colors outside of Barker and Sauve in a long time.