"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."
And with that, Sbisa was sent back to the WHL. But he didn't just twiddle his thumbs in the Major Juniors 'doing the things that he does well.' He stormed the International stage twice, representing Switzerland at both the World Juniors and the Vancouver Olympic Games. An abdominal injury would knock him out of the Juniors, but a broken ring finger could not keep him from finishing the Olympics, where he climbed the depth chart of a porous (sorry, had to) Swiss defense.
Due to injuries and International competition, Sbisa spent only 29 games in the WHL this season. He served 17 with Lethbridge (ironically one less than he played with them last year, as he spent much of the season in Philadelphia) and was subsequently traded to Portland, where he played 12 regular season games and 13 playoff games.
I didn't see any of his WHL games this season (because I thought it would be too painful to watch after the Olympics), but nothing I saw of him in camp, the NHL or International play indicated he was a fragile kid who needed to have the pressure alleviated. If anything, I wonder if we've damaged our relationship with him, as many of his quotes on the day he was traded are grateful to the Flyers organization for giving him 40 games (1 playoff game) as a 19 year old. The Ducks organization, meanwhile, showed themselves to be a little too GP obsessed, giving Kyle Calder a look before Dan Sexton and having more faith in Nick Boynton than Luca Sbisa. If we put any more Boyntons in his way this year, it'll be a looooong RFA negotiation next year.
Statistical year-in-review after the jump...
Advanced NHL stats courtesy of Behind The Net
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