|"I made a big step forward playing in juniors," Sbisa said. "I played so many minutes and had a lot of responsibility. I’m definitely ready this year to play a full season in the NHL." |
With five of the seven defensemen gone from last season's opening night roster, there will definitely be a new look to Anaheim's blue line in 2010-11.
This offseason has seen Scott Niedermayer retire and both James Wisniewski (NYI) and Steve Eminger (NYR) dealt to the Empire State, joining Nick Boynton and Ryan Whitney on the list of former Ducks d-men from one year ago.
One of the the two (along with Sheldon Brookbank
) that still remain is Luca Sbisa
, who won a spot with the Ducks out of training camp. But his stay with the club would be a short one, as he was sent back to his junior team after eight games.
Another year of experience under his belt (which included 18 points in 29 games with Lethbridge and Portland of the WHL, as well as playing in both the World Junior Championships and the Olympics for his native Switzerland), Sbisa is now ready to make another run at a roster spot this September and hopes to stick around for a lot longer this time around.
Back in Orange County and preparing for the season ahead, Sbisa took a few minutes on Thursday afternoon to discuss his past year and what lies ahead in the coming months.How has your summer been?
It’s been really good. I actually just got back last Tuesday. I pretty much stayed here until the sixth of July, then I went home (Switzerland) for 20 days. It was good to see family. We went on vacation for a week with the whole family to Sardinia, Italy. It was pretty cool. What was the whole experience of last season like for you?
Trades are always a little bit difficult, but I thought it was a good trade. I liked my teammates right away. It felt like we had been playing together for awhile. I was only up for eight games, but it felt almost longer than that. They were so good to me. Obviously, I was really disappointed. I would have loved to stay the whole year. But there are always ups and downs. Looking back now, it was probably the right decision. I made a big step forward playing in juniors. I played so many minutes and had a lot of responsibility.
I was also able to play in the World Junior Championships and the Olympics, which was definitely the season highlight. After the Olympics, it was a little tough to go back to juniors. You get that taste again of playing against grown men and at the highest level possible. I would have liked to go back to playing for the Ducks. But I went back to juniors at an important time. I played in the playoffs with Portland. We dropped out in the second round, which was a little disappointing. We had a really good team. It was a young team. Eight guys were drafted this year from that team. They are going to be a good team in the next couple of years. But I’m definitely ready this year to play a full season in the NHL.
Can you talk about what it was like to represent your native Switzerland at both the World Junior Championships and the Olympics?
|"Last year, my play was not very mature," Sbisa said. "I play a safer game now. I see myself in the future a two-way guy with some offensive abilities. Last year helped me learn how to make the right decisions. I know now when to rush the puck and when to make the safe play. I made a big step in that way." |
I was only able to play in the World Juniors once when I was 17. This year, I had a bigger role. I was wearing the “C”, which made me pretty proud. I like to have a lot of responsibility. It was a good experience. It was too bad I got hurt (with an oblique muscle tear) after just four periods of hockey though. We were scared I wouldn’t get healthy in time to make the Olympics. I flew home for a month and I worked out with the doctors, who went to the Olympics with me. They did a great job. I was supposed to be out six weeks and they sped up the process to about four weeks.
I was able to play in the Olympics, which was unbelievable. That is the highest stage you can play. I can’t even describe it. I don’t think you can beat that tournament ever, with it being in Vancouver, where it pretty much is all about hockey.
I got to play with Jonas (Hiller) again, which was great. I saw a couple of guys who I knew from back home. It was the first time that I played with the highest national team. I used to watch those guys when I was eight years old. Being able to play with them at the Olympics was amazing. You’re playing against teams like Canada, with guys like Getzy, Perry and Scotty. It didn’t seem real at the time. It was an amazing feeling. Bobby (Ryan) and I have a really good relationship, so it was definitely special to play him twice. We had a couple battles and a few chirps. It was fun.You attended the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in L.A. in support of the eight players from your junior team who were selected, including Ryan Johansen (fourth overall to Columbus) and fellow Swiss native Nino Niederreiter (fifth overall to the New York Islanders). What was it like seeing those guys drafted?
Nino is a really good friend of mine. He and his family stayed at my place in Newport Beach. It was cool to go to the draft. I barely remember my draft day because I was so nervous and excited. It was good to go again and get some memories back. It was awesome to see all my buddies go that high. Ryan Johansen was my roommate in Portland. Having that many guys drafted was amazing for the Portland Winterhawks.How much do you know about the two first-round draft picks of the Ducks, Cam Fowler and Emerson Etem?
I played against Emerson a couple of times. He played for Medicine Hat. I used to play for Lethbridge and that was their big rivals. He’s a good player, really fast. He can fly and has a great shot. He scored a lot of goals. Cam, I only played against him once, at the World Junior Championships. I’ve been skating with him. I went on the ice with him twice and we went out for dinner. He’s a really good kid and a great talent. He’s humble. His maturity level is high and who knows, maybe he makes the Ducks this season.What did it mean for you to get to play with Scott Niedermayer in his last season of play in the NHL?
It was an honor to have played with such a great guy. He’s a Hall-of-Famer. I learned a lot from him. We sat next to each other in the dressing room. I asked him 1,000 questions a day. I tried to make the most out of it and get to know as many things as possible from an experienced guy like him.
How do you think you have changed as a player in the past year?
|"This year, I really want to make this team," Sbisa said. "I am ready, mentally and physically.Playing in the Olympics showed me I had made some good progress. It gave me confidence to come into camp this year and know I can make this team." |
I was able to work on my weaknesses. I play a safer game now. Last year, my play was not very mature. At the Olympics, they gave me more of a defensive role, which I liked. I see myself in the future as a two-way guy with some offensive abilities. Last year helped me learn how to make the right decisions. I know now when to rush the puck and when to make the safe play. I made a big step in that way.There have been several changes to the team’s defense this offseason. Do you feel that the 2010-11 season will be a big opportunity for you?
I have learned not to take anything for granted. The past few years I have had a lot of ups and downs. This year, I really want to make this team. I am ready, mentally and physically. I’ve put on 10 pounds of strength. I feel good right now. Playing in the Olympics showed me I had made some good progress. I did a decent job there. It gave me confidence to come into camp this year and know I can make this team. Not just for a couple of games, but for 82 games and hopefully the playoffs. It’s not a good thing that Scotty retired, but it opens up a spot for a guy like me and I’m definitely ready to take advantage of that.With just a little over a month from the start of training camp, have you started to get excited for the season ahead?
Especially since we didn’t make the playoffs last season, everyone is ready to go out there and have a good year. I’ve been skating a little bit now and it’s really a lot of fun to be back on the ice. I can’t wait to go out there and see how my summer training works out.