Hindsight is 20/20. Last July, when the Nashville Predators signed Mike Ribeiro, just weeks after he had been bought out (aka fired) by the Arizona Coyotes, nobody knew what to expect. As Nashville General Manager David Poile laid out Ribeiro's unique (and now well told) story for the first time to the Nashville media, there had to be some skepticism.
“Are they serious? This guy that nobody seems
to want signs for $1.05 million and he's going to be the first line center? Yeah, right.”
As an aside: If you didn't follow the story from the beginning, here are the Cliff Notes (for more detail I've included my interview from that day with Ribeiro for Sports Night
on the Predators Flagship station 102.5 The Game):
- Ribeiro had gone through family counseling after admitting he had allowed his personal issues to affect his play on the ice last season in Arizona.
- His wife Tamara researched Nashville and pinpointed it as a city that would be perfect for a fresh start for the Ribeiro family long term.
- Ribeiro's agent reached out to Poile to express interest (usually it's the other way around) in signing with the Predators.
- Ribeiro and his family visited Nashville, with Ribeiro basically "recruiting himself" to the Predators, convincing Poile he was still dedicated to the game.
As these details were presented, you couldn't help but be intrigued. Nashville - both as an organization and a city - had what Ribeiro and his family coveted. And Ribeiro's creative skill set was something the Predators desperately coveted. Could it work?
As of now, the answer is quite clear. First, the bargain of it all is quite incredible when compared to the other notable free agent forwards last summer. In a nutshell, he's the most inexpensive player on the list, and arguably the most productive:
|Player ||Contract ||Goals ||Assists ||Points ||Corsi |
|Mike Ribeiro ||1 YR/$1.05 M ||10 ||32 ||42 ||15.77 |
|Jarome Iginla ||3 YR/$15.9 M ||15 ||17 ||32 ||-16.63 |
|Brad Richards ||1 YR/$2.5 M ||9 ||19 ||28 ||10.21 |
|Matt Moulson ||5 YR/$25 M ||7 ||13 ||20 ||-23.68 |
|Thomas Vanek ||3 YR/$19.5 M ||9 ||20 ||29 ||0.93 |
|Brian Gionta ||3 YR/$12.75 M ||4 ||7 ||11 ||-19.13 |
|Matthieu Perreault ||3 YR/$9 M ||15 ||14 ||29 ||10.17 |
|Paul Stastny ||4 YR/$28 M ||9 ||16 ||25 ||7.82 |
|Mike Cammalleri ||5 YR/$25 M ||15 ||6 ||21 ||-6.42 |
|Ales Hemsky ||3 YR/$12 M ||7 ||11 ||18 ||4.00 |
|Dave Bolland ||5 YR/$16.25 M ||1 ||8 ||9 ||-2.03 |
|Radim Vrbata ||2 YR/$10 M ||18 ||13 ||31 ||0.81 |
Money aside, his strengths fit perfectly on this particular Predators team. His creativity matches that of rookie sensation Filip Forsberg. Ribeiro's passing ability also meshes with the high volume shooters he often skates with: Forsberg, Craig Smith or James Neal.
The Predators depth also allows Head Coach Peter Laviolette to play to Ribeiro's strengths. As I illustrated in last week’s blog (attach here), Laviolette's usage of Paul Gaustad's line against an opposition’s top forwards often creates excellent matchups for Ribeiro's line to exploit.
According to behindthenet.ca, Gaustad's "Relative Quality of Competition" is 1.269. This represents the "toughest" minutes among the Predator forwards, and also ranks 18th toughest among NHL centers. Ribeiro by contrast is at .392, third lowest among Predator forwards, and 90th among NHL Centers.
The net result from these favorable matchups is a big "Corsi" or possession advantage for Ribeiro and his linemates, and more importantly, production. Ribeiro's 32 assists currently are on pace to challenge Paul Kariya's franchise record of 54 in a season set during the 2005-06 campaign. His +17 currently is tied for 12th in the NHL.
In addition, Ribeiro has been a true professional. Laviolette has commended not only his play on the ice, but his commitment to the team as well. With the media, Ribeiro has been nothing but honest, insightful and engaging. To this point, there has been no hint of any off-ice issues whatsoever.
What does the future hold? Who knows for sure. As I said to Ribeiro in that introductory interview back in July, if you express an appreciation for Nashville, Music City will give you a chance - no matter who you are.
Both Ribeiro and Poile in recent interviews on Sports Night have stated that there is a mutual desire to continue this relationship beyond this year, but that talks are yet to begin. The negotiation, like any, could be challenging. But neither side seems to be in a big hurry. There is still a lot of hockey to be played this season.
In the meantime, the Ribeiro family seems quite happy. And the Predators are enjoying the best bargain in hockey.