Friday, December 5, 2008

A Boy Among Men

When I was 18 years old going on 19, I was a freshman at Penn State. I spent my time sleeping all day, drinking all night, and playing basketball and Madden in between. Occasionally, I'd make my way to class. Let's just say, my first semester wasn't my best, and my diet consisted of Findlay Commons cafeteria food and this:

Luca Sbisa is 18 years old. He'll be 19 on January 30. Sbisa's life as an 18-year-old is much, much different than mine. Drafted in June, Sbisa has suited up for the Flyers from day one of the 2008-09 season. His numbers aren't gaudy, but his play speaks volumes.

At just 18, he's worked his way up to the Flyers' second defense pairing. He plays big minutes and is often on the ice in late-game situations. And while he's certainly no Kimmo Timonen or even Braydon Coburn at this point, he looks like he can be. Even more impressively, he's earned the trust and confidence of John Stevens, a man that's not the easiest to please.

Today, Sam Donnellon had a great article on the kid. Here's an excerpt:

Picked 19th overall last June with the draft pick acquired in the R.J. Umberger trade, Sbisa has played heady and steady, has played well ahead of his years. Behind his net he makes simple plays. He has good puck skills and is strong on the puck. His stick is active and erases some of his mistakes almost instantly. He can take a hit and he can give one. And at 6-2, 190 pounds, he is only going to get bigger, stronger, tougher.

Last night, despite taking that puck to the face, he logged 34 shifts and 25 minutes, 8 seconds of ice time, more than any other player but Braydon Coburn. Again injuries dictated some of it. Kimmo Timonen suffered a shoulder bruise late in the third period and did not return, requiring Coburn and the kid to play the first 2 1/2 minutes of overtime.

With Randy Jones and Ryan Parent on their way back in the coming weeks, a couple of defensemen are on their way out or on the healthy scratch list. With the way Sbisa has played and developed, he certainly should not be one of them.

And with the acquisitions of Matt Carle and Andrew Alberts, who have both played well, especially Carle, a weakness for the Flyers has suddenly turned into a deep, deep plus. If it were up to me, the top six would be Timonen, Carle, Coburn, Sbisa, Jones and Parent, with Alberts, Vaananen and Kukkonen (if he's still around), available to step in if someone gets hurt or, particularly Jones and Parent (never easy missing a lot of time), struggle.

But Sbisa should stay put. He's earned it, and he'll only get better.


  1. Amen.

    How about that shot he took in the eye the other night... Couldn't believe he was ok, but he popped right up.

  2. He's proven he's tough, that's for sure. Gotta love that pick.