Vancouver Canucks fans love Luca Sbisa. Right? RIGHT?! No.
While there isn’t much hockey to talk about these days, I wanted to compile all interesting Vancouver Canucks news and share my opinion on them. Guess what — I couldn’t find a single recent Canucks article around the web other than our own. So, I had to think a little bit outside the box for this one.
But, believe it or not, there is actually hope for a Luca Sbisa trade.
Analytics vs. Eye Test
Ken Campbell — The Hockey News: ‘Analytics hasn’t reached maturity in the NHL yet’: Matt Pfeffer
"Pfeffer believes the Canadiens are ultimately going to get fleeced on this trade. He can’t speculate on why the Canadiens didn’t take his advice, but it tells us that when it comes to analytics and its place in decision making, the NHL establishment is still very much finding its way."
Before I get into this, I would like to say that I am excited to see Luca Sbisa fill a role he is suited for this season — that on the bottom pairing. He may not be the top-four player the Canucks wanted in him, but he also didn’t get the chance to prove that he can still be a good NHL player. Hence, many fans seem to hate him after struggling mightily last season.
That said, with the Canucks’ current depth on defense and Sbisa’s contract, I wouldn’t exactly be opposed to trading him. But with every Sbisa trade speculation over the past months came the conclusion: there is a reason the Canucks don’t want him and other teams don’t want him for that very reason.
The fact that the Montreal Canadiens traded P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber — in a one-for-one swap — gives hope. But it can also decrease your hope, depending on what kind of person you are.
Shea Weber vs. Luca Sbisa
Traditional hockey fans, coaches and scouts like to rely on the eye test when evaluating players. The eye test says (in short form) Shea Weber plays strong positionally, can use his stick or body to intercept pucks and he has a laser of a shot. All good attributes and he has been an outstanding player over the past years.
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Looking at analytics, however, calling Weber an average player is justifiable. And that’s exactly what Matt Pfeffer did: “There’s nothing wrong with being average in the NHL. An average NHLer is worth a heck of a lot and that’s what Shea Weber is.” His main reason is that Weber is not a good goal differential player, basically meaning he doesn’t influence how many goals his team scores and gets scored on when he’s on the ice.
Likewise, Luca Sbisa is a player who can be physical and block shots and passes, but he also skates well and can move the puck up ice. The eye test also shows he likes to lose it right after moving it up ice, but he’s at least capable of doing it at all. But, a lot of fans would rather see a player who doesn’t screw up as much as Sbisa.
Wait, screw up as much as Sbisa? That sounds like Sbisa causes a lot of damage?
Sbisa a Top-30 Defenseman in Goals Against
Let’s take a quick look at some numbers. In 2015-16, Sbisa had a Corsi for percentage of 44.5 percent, ranking second-last on the Canucks and 254th in the league. But, as Matt Pfeffer pointed out, possession isn’t the only thing to look at — or even a stat you want to look at too much at all.
More important is: does Sbisa cause a lot of goals against while producing little offense himself? With eight points in 41 games, the latter seems confirmed. But the advanced goal stats will probably surprise you.
Sbisa is in the same league as Olli Maatta, Adam Larsson, Victor Hedman and John Klingberg.
In 2015-16, Sbisa had a goals for percentage (percentage of goals scored while player is on the ice that were scored by his team) of 55 percent. In other words, when Sbisa was on the ice, the Canucks scored more goals than they surrendered. That number is good for first on the Canucks and 41st in the league, among defensemen with at least 500 minutes of five-on-five ice time. In case you were wondering, Shea Weber ranked 145th in this category.
What might impress or rather surprise you even more is the fact that Sbisa ranked 27th in the league in goals against per 60. He might not keep the puck out of the defensive zone very much, but at least he makes sure it doesn’t end up in the net.
And if that hasn’t knocked you off your chair yet, how about this: Sbisa tied for sixth (6th!) in the league in goals for percentage relative to team mates, at 12.3 percent. That puts him in the same ballpark as players like Olli Maatta, Adam Larsson, Victor Hedman and John Klingberg. Sbisa obviously profits from weak teammates, increasing his relative stats, but it is impressive nonetheless. By the way, Shea Weber ranked 190th out of 198 players in this category.
So, whether you are a traditional type or enjoy analytics, there is reason to believe Luca Sbisa is tradeable. When you look at Sbisa as a player who can be physical and keep the puck out of the net, that actually sounds pretty good.
Looking at it like that, why don’t we just keep Sbisa where he is?
*All stats via stats.hockeyanalysis.com