The Mike Ribeiro narrative has been quoted to death this summer, by this blog and other media outlets alike. This preview isn't about that. Instead, it's about the playmaker who, while not the perfect number one center, still gives Nashville a chance to make some noise in the conference this year.
It's really hard to gauge what exactly to expect from Ribeiro this year. Heck, it's hard to gauge what to expect from the Predators in general this year, but Ribs may be the biggest X-Factor. He's the Mystery Box you buy at the carnival for a dollar. Inside could be the keys to a brand new car or a half-eaten carny sandwich fuzzy with mold.
The 34-year-old is likely slotted to be James Neal's setup man on the top line, but any talk of them playing on the Stars together is pretty over blown. Remember, they've barely played 250 minutes together. They were also pretty atrocious together, but it was Neal's rookie season.
Whether Colin Wilson, Craig Smith, or someone else is going to be skating won't be known until after training camp. Logic dictates Smith should see time there, but even though he's a top-line forward (at least as far as this team goes) he's better suited on the second line, taking heavier minutes. That frees up Neal, Ribeiro and Winger to skate sheltered minutes, opening up their opportunity to perform better. Better opportunities for everyone involved, as well as not having all of Nashville's scoring punch on one, easy-to-defend line.
He'll have to perform better on the power play, though. Probably due to his success in Washington, he played the third most minutes of any player in Arizona. Yet his numbers weren't very impressive, even though Coyotes were a top-five power play team. Most of that stems from his being a key cog of the Capitals power play, and taking a backseat to Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson for the Coyotes. Perhaps Laviolette can take a page out of Adam Oates' book. (But only that one, please.)
So, which version of Ribeiro are the Preds going to get? Place your bets now.
Best Case Scenario
His new attitude and desire for change combine with a reinvigorated playing style, which allows him to thrive in Nashville. With James Neal as his running mate, the two combine to lead the Predators in points and give Nashville a scoring spectacle the city hasn't seen... well, ever.
Worst Case Scenario
All the reported problems he had in Phoenix resurface, and he can't keep himself together on the ice. He's already notorious for mouthing off at refs, but his attitude gets worse and he plays himself right off the team before the season's over. That, or age catches up to him and he just can't produce anymore.
Ribeiro has his best season since leaving Dallas. He doesn't join the 20 goal club this year, but is able to rack up 60 points.
Tarantula. Often feared because of appearance and the whole poison thing, but is just misunderstood. Provides a valuable service to the ecosystem, and but still has the power to take down a bird twice its size.