Luca Sbisa is a likeable guy. You feel it when you listen to him talk.
Speaking with TSN 1040 radio before pre-season began, the hosts commented on how he always hangs around after games to answer reporters’ questions, and asked why he places importance on letting everyone know what the team is thinking.
“To be honest, sometimes I didn’t do it on purpose. Maybe I was a guy who took a little longer to take off the gear, and then I just got caught in all that stuff.”
See what I mean about being likeable? He’s honest. And honesty is good.
Unfortunately for him, all his likeability and honesty might make no difference to you, because all you want is for Sbisa to help your team win.
Sbisa wasn’t exactly Vancouver’s answer to Erik Karlsson in his first year here. In advanced stats, he ranked 384 out of 422 NHL defencemen in even-strength Corsi plus/minus. In non-advanced stats, his minus-8 ranked him last on the Canucks.
He and defensive partner Kevin Bieksa appeared to drain each other’s confidence, while being slow and easy to beat. This made his three year $3.6-million/per contract extension hard to fathom.
The good thing is it doesn’t sound as if he’ll rest now that he’s cashed in.
“It’s nice to get rewarded with (the contract). It just shows you you’re on the right path, but at the same time, it’s just one little step. You’ve got to make sure you take that next step the next year, and that’s what I’m trying to do right now.”
It’ll be interesting to see where Sbisa slots in on Vancouver’s depth chart – we know he’s below Chris Tanev, Alex Edler and Dan Hamhuis. That’ll leave Sbisa, Yannick Weber, Matt Bartkowski and Frank Corrado to fight over the rest of the minutes.
Reality is, he could end up sixth or even seventh on the list.
He does see what he needs to work on, though:
“Obviously you want to be more consistent, play with confidence. I think my mental game can take a big step… and obviously on the ice there’s a lot of things.”
Hard to see it based on last year, but let’s consider the possibility Sbisa improves: he becomes a solid, reliable defenceman – one who usually makes the right play in his own end, who develops confidence with the puck, and who plays with a physical edge that would make fellow Italian Luca Brasi proud (Sbisa is Italian-born Swiss).
If he does all this, he would be worth a lot of money – say some crazy amount like $3.6 million a year.
Isn’t it comforting to know he won’t be holding out?