Luca Sbisa’s time in the NHL is over this season. With the Ducks off to a slow start and Sbisa’s lack of production, the coaching staff decided the young defenseman would be better suited for the Juniors or Europe rather than risk being a healthy scratch in the NHL.
Sbisa had played in all eight Ducks games until Saturday when he became a healthy scratch. He came over during the summer with Joffrey Lupul in the Chris Pronger trade and showed flashes of the defenseman everyone thinks he can become, but because of the Ducks’ slow start and the pressure placed on him it became clear that he needs at least one more season in the minors.
Because of his age, Sbisa is 19 years old, he is ineligible to play in the AHL because there is a minimum age requirement of 20 years to play there. That means he will either be assigned to the Western Hockey League or a European team, which is unfortunate because he could probably develop better in the AHL.
This move is not really a surprise. I wrote here and here that Sbisa could be in danger of being sent down, especially after the recall of Brendan Mikkelson, and the fact he was scratched yesterday was a clear indication that his time was up. The coaching staff did admit that it was a difficult decision, though, as they had been discussing it for a few weeks.
Ducks Head Coach Randy Carlyle was quoted as saying “We’ve probably discussed it for the better part of two weeks here. We felt we couldn’t continually keep him (playing) 10-12 minutes a night. It wouldn’t be beneficial the way our team was playing. We felt he wouldn’t garner those minutes here in the next while, so we made a decision based on what’s best for the player in the long term.”
Carlyle also said “A lot of it has to do with the way we’re playing right now. We think the young player has come in and played fairly well, but in the situation we’re in right now, but we think it could be a detriment to having him in a pressure situation that we’re in. The decision was based on we want him to play in the league for 15 years, not for five years … if we can do anything to alleviate the pressure of this year, have him go back and play major junior hockey and do the things that he does well, continue to develop, I think the next step will be a lot easier.”
Sbisa had his moments, most of them coming in a pre-season that saw him play seven of eight Ducks games. His NHL highlight was in a pre-season game against the Phoenix Coyotes where he scored the overtime winner in a thrilling comeback victory. You can read about that game here.
It’s not fair to blame Sbisa for any of the Ducks struggles this season. Most people weren’t sure how good of a player he was, only that he has a ton of potential and could become great one day. It’s clear that his biggest asset is his skating ability and that should keep him in the NHL for years to come, but we should expect him to be in the Ducks lineup by next year.