Mike Ribeiro gives the Phoenix power play a strong playmaker.
The advertisement on Mike Ribeiro is that he is a strong player, and he makes teammates around him better.
Observers point to Ribeiro’s playmaking ability, his penchant for finding players in the right spot at the right time and his knack for not making a bad pass as attributes any team would cherish.
When talks this past summer between Ribeiro and the Washington Capitals, the team for which he played in 2012-13, broke down, he quickly picked up the phone and dialed on old friend.
It’s likely Ribeiro had Phoenix coach Dave Tippett on his speed dial because Ribeiro immediately reached out to his old coach. The two had a history in Dallas when Tippett coached the Stars, and Ribeiro was his main playmaker. The two eventually parted ways, but Ribeiro kept Tippett on his radar screen.
To recognize Ribeiro’s talent level and in the hopes of building a respectable power play, Tippett immediately answered the phone. Quickly, Phoenix general manager Don Maloney produced a four-year, $22 million contract, according to CapGeek.com. Ribeiro instantly signed and repaired to the desert.
At just past the one-quarter mark of the season, Ribeiro is clearly paying dividends. Coming into Tuesday night’s game with Colorado, the 33-year-old native of Montreal was third in team scoring and tied for third in goals scored.
Scoring is not one Ribeiro’s trademarks, but his refined skill level sets him apart from just about any playmaker in the NHL.
“I like to slow it down and look for the option,” Ribeiro said after practice Monday and before heading to the airport. “Sure, (assistant coach Newell Brown) has come in and helped with the power play. He watches the video and gives us options, but you also have to see the options, too.”
From the start of training camp, Tippett placed Ribeiro with captain Shane Doan, and the pair clicked from the beginning.
Doan has enjoyed a resurgence in scoring, and before the Colorado game, he was tied with David Perron of Edmonton, David Backes of St. Louis and Matt Moulson of Buffalo for fifth in the league with six power-play goals. That puts Doan only three back of league-leader Alex Ovechkin of Washington, who has nine.
With David Moss now as his left wing, Ribeiro said there was a period of adjustment to new teammates and new surroundings. After two months, Ribeiro reports he’s feeling much better.
“I was kind of pressing, trying make a good impression, and things did not go well earlier,” he said. “Now with Moss and Doan as linemates, things are coming together. I’m settling in now and feel more comfortable.”
If Tippett remembered Ribeiro’s creative abilities, that stirring segment of his game was not overlooked.
“He sees the rink so well and is a very smart player,” Moss said. “He’s the one which makes the power play go and is real intelligent with and without the puck. He seems to make all the right moves at the right time.”
With Ribeiro as the catalyst, the Coyotes power play has nearly risen from the dead.
Last season, play with the man-advantage was anemic. Now, with Ribeiro as the quarterback, the power play is seventh in the league. Only Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Toronto, Chicago, Washington and Montreal own a better power-play percentage.
“When he first came to Dallas, Ribeiro was an all-skill guy,” Tippett said. “Gradually, he’s developed into an all-around player and touches many phases of the game. I would say he is at a happy medium right now, but his high skill level remains his strongest asset.”
Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.