Another article from Anaheim Calling Tryout Alex. Let him know what you think in the comments.
With Corey Perry's emergence as one of the top players in the league, Teemu defying age and finishing in the top 10 amongst NHLers in points, and Visnovsky leading defensemen in scoring, people have somewhat overlooked the brilliant effort put in by our two young defensemen: Cam Fowler and Luca Sbisa.
Last summer left fans very unsure of how this year would turn out. Scott Niedermayer, the best defenseman we've ever had on the team, decided to retire after an illustrious career. Murray also traded James Wisniewski for a third round draft pick, after a deal couldn't be reached on a new contract.
The goal of Free Agency was obviously to replenish the blue line. Murray let big names like Volchenkov and Hamhuis go by, and ended up signing Toni Lydman and Andy Sutton. He also added Paul Mara and Andreas Lilja. No one was satisfied. Fans, journalists, and analysts alike considered our blue line to be one of the worst, if not the worst, in the league. No one predicted Lydman would have such an impact, no one knew just how talented Visnovsky was, and no one knew just how good Cam and Luca would actually be.
We acquired Luca Sbisa in a blockbuster trade with Philadelphia that also brought us Joffery Lupul and two first round draft picks (with which we traded down to draft Kyle Palmieri and Mat Clark and and then drafted Emerson Etem the following year). Sbisa was the big incentive of the deal. Considered one of Philadelphia's top prospects (he even played time on their injured NHL blueline before arriving here) and a player would ease the loss of Chris Pronger.
But through his first few games in Anaheim, the team decided that Sbisa wasn't NHL ready. The rear guard spent all of last year in Juniors. However, he was also an exciting player in the Olympics, considered to be Switzerland's best young defenseman, playing amongst grown men who were the best in the world, and shutting them down. Carlyle even told him that if he played like that in training camp, he has a guaranteed spot on the team. He earned that spot, initially, but didn't show enough game to game improvement and was sent down to the AHL.
Down in the minors, Sbisa quickly got his act together and earned a call up with his wonderful play. He came back a different player, and a different person. He had more energy, more confidence, more aggression, more passion. He became a serious factor, playing responsible defense, dishing out huge hits, and being utilized offensively. He was the player we wanted him to be, and he made sure his trip to the minors would be his last.
This kid was a top 5 talent. Never ranked lower than 7, a sort of dream come true for the Ducks. Right after Scotty's retirement, a lottery pick player falls to us, and that player just so happens to get compared to #27.
Fowler's talents made an impression in the pre-season. He matched and exceeded early expectations, and even garnered high praise from Randy Carlyle, who isn't one to gush about his players. Cam made the team easily, but questions surrounded the decision not to send him back to Juniors.
Would he be good enough during regular season play? Does he deserve to play past the ELC cutoff? Can he play 82 games? He was indeed a draft year rookie, an OHL rookie the year before. We knew he'd be good; we never knew he'd be phenomenal.
He finished the year with 10 goals and 40 points. Drew Doughty, by comparison, had about 28 points his rookie year. He led rookie defenders for most of the year, led all rookies in time on ice until the very end of the year, and he became the second youngest defender to score an overtime game winner. The only blemish on his record is the +/- stat (and in his defense, he was never given a steady pairing partner), but his play in the first round of the playoffs was a sign of VERY good things to come.
Sbisa and Fowler have clearly shown their skill. The only questions that remain are: 1) how good will they be moving forward and 2) will they be paired?
I view C4/Luca as a sort of hockey Yin-Yang. Fowler represents the offensive half. His poise, skating, maturity, hockey sense, and powerplay ability gathered big comparisons to his landlord. He played beyond his age and beyond expectations. Selanne said it would be a crime if he never wins the Norris (this is the guy who predicted that Getzlaf would become a superstar).
Sbisa, represents the defensive side of the Yin-Yang. He skates well and handles the puck, but his value is defined by the bone crushing hits he dishes, the shutdown defense he plays, and the willingness to get into ugly situations. He's sort like a Pronger proto-type. Pairing these two together would give us a pairing that has everything you can ask for from your defense. The two players, along with the RPG line, represent our future. And the future's looking pretty bright.