Will Mike Ribeiro Spark Phoenix Coyotes Dormant Offense?
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The accolades for Mike Ribeiro are glowing.
Great playmaker, great teammate, great citizen.
Most teams welcome an opportunity to grab a player of Ribeiro’s caliber and, over this past offseason, the Phoenix Coyotes won the lottery.
Once the Ribeiro and the Washington Capitals could not agree on a contact for the 2013-14 season, the Coyotes stepped forward and made an aggressive pitch.
For Ribeiro, the prospect of reuniting with former coach Dave Tippett and a return to the NHL’s Western Conference were both appealing. Once talks with the Capitals collapsed, Ribeiro quickly signed with Phoenix and relocated to the desert.
His offense credentials are well documented.
Last season, the 33-year-old center led the league in power play points and finished fifth in assists.
Yet, Ribeiro thrived under Tippett for the three years they were together with the Dallas Stars. Enjoying his best season in 2007-08, Ribeiro recorded 27 goals, assisted on 56 others for 83 points and had plus-minus of plus-21, all career highs.
After talks with the Capitals went nowhere, Ribeiro’s 2013-14 destination was pretty much a given.
After Ribeiro signed with the Coyotes in early July, the praise commenced.
“Mike is a different piece we did not have before,” Tippett said at a July news conference introducing Ribeiro. “He has the ability to make players around him better and I believe there is no center in the league like him.”
At that time, Tippett indicated Ribeiro would center between right wing Shane Doan and Mikkel Boedker on the left wing. That would represent the Coyotes number one line, but Ribeiro’s overall presence is designed to add a boost to a sluggish offense.
After a week of training camp, glowing reviews continue. Doan, who enters his 18th season with the Winnipeg/Phoenix franchise, expects to be a beneficiary.
“(Ribeiro) has an amazing sense of where you are on the ice,” said Doan. “On his line now for a few days, I can see why he’s so special. I’m very impressed.”
Going forward, the issue for Ribeiro may not his vision, passing abilities, leadership or character. This could be a case of limited playing time.
As part of only one line, it’s now up to others to draw from Ribeiro. After all, the average NHL shift is less than one minute and Ribeiro can only influence those directly on the ice with him.
Sure, Ribeiro can put up impressive numbers and set up teammates at regular strength or on the power play. Yet, his playing time is only a fourth.
In reality, the other three lines and special teams need to step up and complement Ribeiro’s contributions.
Coming into the season, the biggest question facing the franchise is scoring. Whether Ribeiro can elevate the play of those on the ice with him remains part of the equation. The true dilemma is whether the other lines can share in scoring responsibilities
It’s no secret Phoenix needs to dramatically increase goal production. As one of the weakest scoring teams last season, the hope is Ribeiro will frequently illuminate the red light and influence play around him.
Then again, he can only have an effect on those on the ice with him. The burden of an increased offense falls within the team.
Going forward, the question remains whether the personnel surrounding Ribeiro is capable of assisting in the team quest for greater goal production.
A scrimmage on Wednesday night at Jobing.com Arena generated $165,198 for families of the fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots.
Overall, 19 firefighters perished in the tragic Yarnell fire on June 30. Contributions came from current players at $25,000 and the Coyotes Alumni contributed $5,000.
Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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