If center Mike Ribeiro lives up to part of the hype, the Phoenix Coyotes should benefit from his presence.
Though Phoenix is considered a small media market and extends limited coverage of the Coyotes, the media, which turned out Friday to meet Ribeiro, seemed to sing the party praise.
Nearly all questions referenced Ribeiro, a Montreal native of Portuguese decent, as an offensive savior and liberator to save the Coyotes’ anemic power play. Noted as a creative playmaker, his presence is expected to yield results on two levels.
First, the Coyotes desperately need help on the power play. Plus, Ribeiro’s playmaking ability tends to rise the level of play of those on the ice with him.
Of principal purpose, he was brought in to increase production on the power play and to increase goal totals.
With Washington last season, Ribeiro triggered the Caps’ man-advantage crew and helped Washington click on 26.8 percent of the power plays, the highest in the NHL last season.
Compared to the Coyotes’ standing as 25th on the power play, he is expected to have an immediate impact.
“I don’t have the hardest shot in the league, so I like to be creative,” Ribeiro said. “My game is to get there, dish out the puck and help set up my teammates.”
One who knows Ribeiro’s game well is Dave Tippett, the Phoenix coach.
As coach of the Dallas Stars in the 2000s, Tippett had Ribeiro with Dallas for two seasons. He was the No. 1 center for the Stars. That’s a role Ribeiro is expected to fill in Phoenix, and he will likely be elevated to the Coyotes' No. 1 line on the initial training camp depth chart.
“When I had him in Dallas, he established himself as an elite player,” Tippett said of Ribeiro. “He has the ability to make players around better. He has a great presence of the ice, and he’s the kind of player that generates a productive power play.”
While Tippett said it’s not too early to start thinking seriously about training camp, there is still an uncertainty about linemates.
At the start of Ribeiro’s tenure in Phoenix, Tippett said he could be paired with Shane Doan on the right wing and perhaps Mikkel Boedker on the left side. At any rate, Tippett said he likes to keep players in pairs and penciled in Ribeiro with Doan, Martin Hanzal (center) and Radim Vrbata (right wing).
Plus, the presence of Ribeiro creates significant depth at center.
When training camp begins in September, Ribeiro will likely be penciled in as the No. 1 center and Hanzal No. 2. Tippett said Antoine Vermette could be the third-line center and Kyle Chipchura would center a fourth line.
While linemates will be determined in camp, Tippett indicated strength down the middle as one offseason objective that was met.
When the Capitals refused to give Ribeiro a three-year deal at $5.5 million a year, as reported in the The Washington Post on July 5, the decision to leave the nation’s capital for Phoenix was a no-brainer.
“Once the franchise stuff was settled, I was coming to Phoenix,” Ribeiro said. “I played for coach Tippett before and this is a great fit for me. I wanted to get the free agency thing out of the way immediately, and this is the right situation for me.”
The principal attraction, Ribeiro said, remains the esteem Tippett commands.
“(Tippett) respects you and believes in you,” he said. “He knows what I can do and gave me the freedom (in Dallas).”
After Ribeiro’s introduction to the local media Friday, general manager Don Maloney said he remains in the market for a winger who can score. While inventory on the NHL free-agency market appears limited, a player who can pump in some goals would be a nice complement to the signing of Ribeiro.
Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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