Like every NHL player, Mike Ribeiro
is a creature of habit. So, when Marc Crawford became the Stars new head coach before last season, it was definitely an adjustment.
That’s because Ribeiro had been the No. 1 center under Dave Tippett but under Crawford’s system, he would drop down to the second line. That was something that the veteran had to get used to and it showed on the ice.
In 66 games, he had 19 goals and 34 assists for 53 points, his lowest point total as a Star and lowest since 2005-06, which was his final year in Montreal.
But so far this season, Ribeiro is thriving. In 41 games, he has eight goals and 26 assists for 34 points, which puts him well ahead of the 53-point season he had one year ago. He can clearly tell a huge difference between last year and this one.
“Last year, it was a little bit harder for me to adjust. The years before, I was the No. 1 center,” he said. “Last year was a lot of frustration. If you have that in your game, a lot of times it takes you out of your game.”
However, after experiencing that frustration in year one under Crawford, the veteran center changed his mindset a bit heading into the 2010-11 season.
“I came in this year with a different approach-accepting my role and helping the team win not just by scoring or creating defensively but by doing the right thing for the team. I think that’s the biggest change,” Ribeiro said. “I accept what my role is this year and just help win games for this team.”
Crawford has definitely taken notice and likes the results to date.
“We’ve asked Mike to be more of a two-way this year and he’s responded with real strong play away from the puck,” the Stars head coach said. “His ability to compete against any type of player, he’s pretty underrated in that respect. He’s very good in the defensive zone and when he puts his mind to it, he can play against anybody. He’s really a competitive guy and he uses his wiry frame in the defensive zone extremely well.”
And the Dallas coach has also seen a number of good things from Ribeiro on the offensive end in the first half of the season.
“Offensively, he’s got great deception, great poise and patience with the puck. He finds open people and is more of the pure playmaking center than the pure shooting center,” Crawford said. “He goes to tough areas like he did last night and he gets goals because of it. He’s got a decent shot when he gets a chance to shoot one-on-one and he’s clever. He’s been a great scorer at a lot of levels, including the NHL level. One of the reasons we have a one-two punch with that line and the Richards line is because of Mike.”
Ribeiro clearly agrees that buying into Crawford’s system has paid huge dividends both for him personally as well as the entire squad.
“I’m a little bit more focused on the system and positioning myself better. Every time I have good games, it’s when I sweat less by being in good positions and following the system,” the veteran center said. “Every time I get away from that, I don’t play as good. But if I follow the gameplan and do the right thing, it’s an easier game for me. I just need to be focused. If I play well defensively, most of the time, I will get my chance. We try to do the right thing like dumping the puck a little more than I’m used to, creating turnovers defensively and trying to create some chances for the team.”
And it’s pretty clear he enjoys playing on the second line alongside captain Brenden Morrow
and up-and-comer Jamie Benn
“We [Morrow and I] have played together since I moved here and we clicked right away. Bennie was a little bit harder,” Ribeiro said. “We tried last year and had a hard time. It was hard at first but we’ve been playing and practicing together a long time now and know a lot more about each other and what we want as a line. We’re not a line who talks a lot on the bench. It’s more about doing the right thing. If you do that, you create your chances. Lately we have had a lot of chances. We know we can score a little bit more. We’ll keep working on it and keep pushing.”
Other than Morrow and fellow center Steve Ott
, Ribeiro is one of the longest-tenured members of this team and likes the current mix of players Crawford has assembled.
“We have a good group of young guys. We’re older but we’re still in our thirties. That used to be your prime but now it’s a little bit younger than that,” he said. “We have a good mix of veterans and young kids that are comfortable in the room. That shows up on the ice. It’s nice to be in the team for a long time. Hopefully I can keep doing the right things to stay as long as I can.”