After the recent season unraveled, there was plenty of blame thrown around explaining why the Phoenix Coyotes did not qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Lack of scoring, failure to hold leads and poor individual performances were cited as principal reasons.
Among the culprits, fingers point to center Mike Ribeiro, who signed, according to capgeek.com, a four-year, $22 million contract with Phoenix last summer. The move was greeted with excitement and filled with the hopes that Ribeiro’s creative playmaking abilities would provide the Coyotes with a catalyst to improved scoring.
Instead, the opposite transpired, and Ribeiro was left trying to answer questions about his inability to help the club during dire times.
The start was satisfactory, but the way Ribeiro finished was of legitimate concern.
Over the last two months of the season, Ribeiro picked up only six assists—and that was from Feb. 4 until the conclusion of the season. Also, he scored only seven goals from Dec. 14 until the final game on April 13. His disappearing act was so grave that coach Dave Tippett benched the 34-year-old veteran for critical road games against the Penguins and Devils in late March.
“It was a long season for me,” he told reporters on the day the Coyotes cleaned out their lockers and left for the summer. “When I came here, I was expected to do something and that did not get done. Right now, it’s about me and how can I get better.”
Clearly, Ribeiro came with all the credentials needed to lift the Coyotes' sagging production. In the lockout shortened season two years ago, he tied with then teammate Alexander Ovechkin in power-play points and was second in scoring with the Capitals.
Prior to spending that season in Washington, Ribeiro played six seasons with the Dallas Stars, where he had Tippett as his head coach for three seasons. When Ribeiro became a free agent last summer, Tippett was one who lobbied for his services.
“When he first came (to Phoenix), things were positive,” said Tippett. “Then, in the second half, things started downhill. Simply, he just did not play well.”
For his part, Ribeiro wants to quickly forget his first season in the desert.
Trying to juggle lines in search of the right combination, Tippett never found the right complement of linemates for Ribeiro, and Ribeiro never seemed comfortable as a result. Ribeiro started with captain Shane Doan on his right wing but eventually lost Doan for 12 games in the middle of season when the Coyotes’ captain went down with Mountain Fever. In the end, Ribeiro lost his sense of purpose and ability to make players around him better.
When Ribeiro arrived in training camp last September, that was the observation from Tippett. He was the kind of player which would raise the talent around him and make the team seemingly better overall. The expectations for Ribeiro to succeed in the desert were high after finding new ownership last summer.
When George Gosbee and his Ice Arizona contingent took over ownership from the NHL last August, one of their first steps was to sign Ribeiro and make the Coyotes a playoff-contending team.
Only one part of the equation worked and now Ribeiro was left to take the blame.
“If I played better, we would have made the playoffs,” he admitted. “I was not able to create much for the team. The only thing now is for me to come back better next season.”
As he packed his bag and headed to parts unknown, Ribeiro turned and offered this stunning confession.
“There were no positives for me this season,” he said. “Nothing, zero.”
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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