Monday, February 2, 2009

Out of Luca

In disappointing but unsurprising news, the Flyers sent Luca Sbisa back to juniors today.

This was a move you could see from a mile away. The Flyers have been desperately seeking cap space all year long, in preparation for Danny Briere's return or for flexibility to make a move before the trade deadline. In the past couple months, coinciding with the return of Randy Jones, Sbisa's playing time has plummeted drastically. He has routinely been a healthy scratch, and the Flyers have settled into a nice rotation back on the blue line.

Sbisa did a phenomenal job as an 18-year-old rookie to start the season. The Flyers were without Jones, and Ryan Parent, who is now with the Phantoms, was expected to be the sixth defenseman before an injury sidelined him to start the season. As a result, Sbisa was called upon and impressed. But looking to add some depth and consistency, the Flyers traded for Andrew Alberts and Matt Carle, and with Jones returning, someone had to sit. Sbisa was the odd man out, due to his inexperience, age and the strong play of Alberts and Carle.

With Kimmo Timonen and Ossi Vaananen making up the No. 1 pair, Braydon Coburn and Matt Carle as the 2nd pair, and Randy Jones and Andrew Alberts as the 3rd in line, the Flyers have three solid defense pairs. Sbisa, a young player who needs playing time to develop, needed to either supplant Alberts or go back to juniors. Alberts had provided a physical presence and seems to work very well with Jones, making the decision rather easy for the Flyers, especially with versatile veteran Lasse Kukkonen available as insurance.

It's a sad move considering how well Sbisa played early in the year. But as most rookies are wont to do, Sbisa had is down games and made plenty of rookie mistakes. The Flyers, who have lost two of three since the All-Star break to two dreadful teams—Florida and St. Louis—can't really afford to go through the growing pains of a now 19-year-old defenseman.

The good news is Sbisa proved he can play in the NHL. He gained invaluable experience, playing nearly half a season's worth of games with the big club, and his future is incredibly bright. Don't be surprised to see Sbisa back with the Flyers sooner rather than later. I know I'll be pulling him for him.

BallHype: hype it up!

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