The entire hockey world is buzzing with the news of Nashville's free agent signings today. Some are big fans of the deals, others aren't. There will be plenty of time to analyze the moves in the coming weeks, there is one question mark that stands above the rest: Mike Ribeiro.
Like it or not, there are going to be plenty of assumptions made about him before the season starts. To get the low down on his most recent season, we asked Jaime Eisner of Five for Howling to fill us in on the most glaring questions we have about the 34-year-old center.
Much and more has been made of Don Maloney's comments on Ribeiro's "behavioral issues." Were those evident throughout the season?
During the latter part of last season it became quite obvious something was wrong. Ribeiro's dip in production correlated quite closely with his marital issues, although the issue was not known by fans at the time. Once coach Dave Tippett benched Ribeiro for a pair of games late in the season with the playoffs still in reach, it became apparent there were issues beyond his underwhelming on-ice performance. There are plenty of unconfirmed rumors regarding his personal life that I do not feel comfortable addressing, but there was a report about Ribeiro missing meetings and buses, being late to practice and engaging in a shout match with Tippett after a game.
What do you attribute his drop-off in production last year -- his point per game ratio was much better earlier in the year last year, and it trailed off considerably. Was he just not getting as much ice time because of rough relations with coach and team? Other?
A combination of his own poor play and the poor offensive output of his linemates. Ribeiro spent the majority of the season as essentially a 3C, both in TOI and quality of teammates. He was often locked to the hip of RW David Moss, a defensive forward who shot just over five percent last season. Ribeiro is not a goal scorer per se, but his linemates couldn't hit the back of the net.
His struggles on the power play were befuddling. He was the No. 1 center on the best power play in the Western Conference, but managed only 15 PPP. The Coyotes do run a lot of their power play offense from the point, but Ribeiro should have been in on more scoring plays.
He did rebound nicely from a dismal 5v5 season in Washington. Was that just a product of being out of Adam Oates' system, or something else?
Zone starts. After three seasons of starting in the offensive zone over defensive zone 52.6%, 53.7% and 49.9% of the time, he started in the offensive zone 71% of the time last season. It is actually surprising that Ribeiro played as well as he did 5v5 considering his production in Washington and the fact he played with offensively-challenged wingers in Arizona.
After his performance last year, what should Nashville fans expect out of him?
If he can focus solely, or mostly, on hockey, I expect a bounce-back year for Ribeiro. Getting away from the third line checking forwards should help his 5v5 scoring and, given his history, I don't see his power play numbers getting worse. While they did not play together much in Dallas, sticking Ribeiro on a line with James Neal and giving them sheltered minutes may prove to be the best move for both forwards. I would not be shocked to see something close to 15-45-60 from him next season if he can stay on the ice.
What was his highlight moment for you in his brief stint with the Coyotes.
In his first month as a Coyote, Ribeiro looked like a $5.5 million player. From October 10-22, he had a seven-game point streak (5-4-9), capped off with back-to-back multi-goal games.
So there you go. There may be a cloud hanging over him for the first few months of the season, but signing a potential 60 point player for about a million bucks is really hard to argue with. Thanks to Jaime for taking the time to answer some questions. We'll have way more for you in the coming days, but right now I'll leave you with my favorite Ribeiro moment over the last few years.
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