The Nashville Predators Mike Ribeiro certainly had an interesting season.
As I evaluate Mike Ribeiro’s season for The Nashville Predators, I must say he has been an intriguing topic to look into. He is a 36-year-old center who has turned his personal life around, refocused on his hockey career and was capable of putting up a 60 point season and a 50 point season for the Preds since his arrival in 2014. Unless you are Jaromir Jagr, the ageless wonder, then you would have to say putting up 50 to 60 points in your mid-thirties is quite exceptional.
Even though he has put some nice numbers up for the Preds I still worry about him on this team. In the NHL, and specifically the Central Division, you need to have center depth. Having two or hopefully three top-tier centers is what can make a team a contender in the playoffs. The Nashville Predators traded for Ryan Johansen, so we can now say we have a number one center. Behind him who do we have? Mike Ribeiro and Mike Fisher. Both are in their mid-thirties.
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Usually, when a team has a thirty-something-year-old player, that can still contribute, they are often put on the third or fourth line because of the shorter ice time. So the question becomes after his second season, is Mike Ribeiro the second line center for this team? How did this season and his grade affect his future with the Nashville Predators?
Let’s look at his full stats from his two seasons and see the differences:
2014-2015 regular-season stats:
82 games, 15 goals, 47 assists, plus +11 rating, 52 penalty minutes, 96 shots on net, 43.18 faceoff win percentage
2015-2016 regular-season stats:
81 games, 7 goals, 43 assists, plus +11 ratings, 62 penalty minutes, 76 shots on net, 37.89 faceoff win percentage
There’s an obvious decrease in goals, but I think what worries me most is the decrease in the faceoff win percentage. As we all noticed in both of the Predators playoff series, winning the faceoff is very important. It determines if you can clear when in the defensive zone or if you can set up the attack when in the offensive zone. Most of the top centers in the league usually win closer to 50% of their faceoffs, so even in his first season, he is below average.
During the playoffs, Ribeiro hasn’t been the best either. In the series against Chicago last year he had one goal and four assists in six games. He actually played a decent six-game series, but when you’re facing a team like Chicago you must able to step up to a different level. He was average.
In this year’s playoffs, Ribeiro really dropped off. He played in twelve games, healthy scratch for two games, zero goals, two assists, and a minus -3 rating. During the second round, you never want to be a healthy scratch. I believe Peter Laviolette was trying to use this as a way to jump-start Ribeiro and get him going on offense again.
Let’s break down the good and the bad of his season this year.
Mike Ribeiro was signed during the off-season, of 2014, for the reason that he can create plays and find great passing lanes. Throughout the season, he could do that. You don’t have 40 plus assists in two seasons by just being lucky. Ribeiro has patience the offensive zone. He doesn’t seem to force too many passes and when, for example, you are on a powerplay, having that kind of patience is key to scoring goals or having the puck cleared and time wasted.
When the Nashville Predators were struggling with scoring we found a bright spot. It was our second line. Mike Ribeiro was joined by Filip Forsberg and Craig Smith, and that line seemed almost unstoppable at times. During this time Forsberg was scoring a couple of hat tricks and
wowing us as he got closer to tying the franchise single-season goal record. What was the reason Forsberg was able to do this? Well, he received tremendous help from constant pressure by his two line mates and being in the right places for Ribeiro to get him the puck.
Chemistry. That’s something every coach is looking for in his lines, chemistry. Mike Ribeiro was able to keep up with the young legs of Forsberg and Smith and give them the puck where ever needed. That only helps when your chemistry on your line works, and you know where players like to be and what their tendencies are.
Lack of speed. Now I know I just said that he was capable of keeping up with the young legs of Smith and Forsberg, but let’s think about it. Filip is 21 years old and Craig is 26 years old. Both are fast young players who haven’t hit their prime yet. Ribeiro is 36 and beginning his decline of talent.
I believe it was most noticeable in the playoffs. I noticed the lack of speed of Ribeiro during the Ducks series. There were a couple of offside plays when he had the puck trying to enter the zone. This was due to one of his line mates moving too fast into the zone. Then there were plays where, due to the issue stated before, you’d see Smith or Forsberg skating in and Ribeiro joining in later.
Yes, he’s older and maybe he’s waiting to help set up a play, but most players who wait behind for their line mates to set up are guys who might take a one-timer from a pass back to them. Mike Ribeiro doesn’t shoot that often. He had 76 shots during the season with 7 goals, and he had zero goals on 7 shots in twelve games in the playoffs. For someone who supposed to add to the offense, you’d like some more shots than that.
Faceoffs were something I spoke about before, so I won’t go into too much more detail. I will reiterate that you’d like a center that can help win a majority of faceoffs. Ribeiro was below average during the season with a 37.89 faceoff percentage and during the playoffs with a 36.99 faceoff percentage. Faceoffs are key to winning games, so below 40% is much less than great.
The only reason I don’t drop the grade lower is because of his contributions to the offense on that second line. Without that burst of offense from that line, we would have either limped into the playoffs or possibly miss out. That second line was on fire and Ribeiro was a big part of that. He’s an older center that isn’t great at scoring or faceoffs which is a concern. I wasn’t thrilled when David Poile gave him a two-year deal, mainly because with someone at his age you’re not sure if it was a lucky season or if he could continue the same success.
Perhaps the Nashville Predators will need to look at free agency for a more all-around forward who can take on that second line center spot. 50 points can be hard to come by at his age, but there’s a lot of expectations on someone who puts up points in the regular season to do the same in the postseason. Mike Ribeiro hasn’t shown consistency in the postseason which becomes a concern when you want to go deep in the playoffs.
It will be interesting to see what happens next with the Nashville Predators and Mike Ribeiro.