Challenge for Luca Sbisa is to become a top-four defenseman for Golden Knights
The former first-round pick has the potential, but has struggled when called upon.
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The Vegas Golden Knights' Luca Sbisa, their selection from the Vancouver Canucks in the expansion draft, is a complicated player to assess.
The 27-year-old defenseman from Italy comes with a cap hit of $3.6 million. He is someone who never quite become the top-four man the Canucks hoped when they got him in the Ryan Kesler trade.
Is there more in there to get from him?
Drafted 19th overall in the 2008 draft by the Philadelphia Flyers, Sbisa has been a part of two blockbuster trades in his career. The first saw him and Joffrey Lupul traded from Philadelphia to the Ducks (along with two first-round picks) in the Chris Pronger trade, and then from Anaheim with teammate Nick Bonino in the aforementioned Kesler trade.
Sbisa is a mobile two-way defender who is at his best when he simplifies his game. On the downside, he's not a great passer and his turnovers have been the bane of fans existence over the years.
He has a good shot and is a fine enough skater. He's physical and has the size (6-foot-2, 209 pounds) to throw around when he wants to. He plays a very aggressive game, which can be either good or bad.
It is important to note that his minutes were often with Chris Tanev against top quality of competition (henceforth QoC). He has played a lot of tough minutes over the years, though perhaps not successfully.
Numbers, numbers, numbers
In Sbisa's 465 career games, he has managed 16 goals and 88 points with 329 penalty minutes.
Sbisa sports a Goals For Percentage of 47.08 in three years with Vancouver, good for 175th out of 249 defensemen (minimum 750 minutes). His 2.42 Goals Against per 60 ranks him 187th. That said, his Goals For Percentage Relative (1.59) ranks 83rd.
His possession numbers aren't much better. With a 46.04 Corsi For percentage, Sbisa sits 224th. His Corsi For percentage relative (-3.26) ranks 216th, and his Corsi Against per 60 at 57.75 is a troublesome 201st.
The numbers say he definitely isn't a top-pairing defender. They suggest he isn’t a good defender at all. He is a frustrating player for sure, and while he has the potential to be a solid top-four guy, he's struggled playing those kind of tough minutes and has yet to fully put it together.
Luckily, he’s not being paid like one. At $3.6 million, he’s more like a second-pairing defender and he could still find success lower down the lineup behind Brayden McNabb. With a drop in QoC, he could be a very useful player for the Golden Knights.
Still, that’s little more than a theory at this point.