is coming off the best season of his career. He led the team in assists (56) and points (83), setting career-highs in both, as well as a new personal-high for goals (27). He received a well-earned five-year extension and is clearly one of the cornerstones of a team that made a good run in the playoffs last year and is looking for more.
Confidence? Oh, the Stars have plenty and Ribeiro is no different.
“We definitely have more confidence coming into this training camp than we did a year ago at this time,” he said. “You can’t help but have more after the run we went on. Finishing where we finished and knowing where we could have been (in the Cup Finals) just pushes us to work harder and makes us that much more hungrier. It will be fun to see the younger guys who got some incredible experience last year take that next step. I think they’re all ready and there is no question that they have grown as hockey players. We want to have a good regular season and hopefully win our division and put ourselves in position to make another deep run. The guys will all be ready to go this year.”
Ribeiro has been working out hard for over a month now, and there is still three weeks to go before camp. It is safe to say that he is champing at the bit to get back to playing some hockey.
“I’ve been skating for a while now and getting in good shape,” Ribeiro said. “You always feel like it’s a short summer but when you play deep into May, it really is shorter. But the experience was great and we all cannot wait to get out there and be together as a team again. Hopefully we can get through training camp quickly and get to the season. I think most of the guys enjoy the games more than camp, but it’s what you have to do to prepare. But we honestly cannot wait. I know I can’t.”
Ribeiro has been a big part of making the center position one of the strongest areas of the roster. Two years ago, one could never had predicted that Dallas would have as much quality depth at center as they do heading into 2008-09.
Adding Ribeiro was big enough, but then to also add Brad Richards last season, along with Mike Modano, gives the Stars three top-quality centers and sets the table for scoring depth among the forward lines.
“Having Richie and Mo also there at the center position is great for all of us,” Ribeiro said. “It is hard to score goals in this league and when you can build several strong lines that have the ability to score, it’s hard to stop. Teams can shut down one line but it is hard to shut down two or three good lines with talent. A lot of times last year, we would have the other team’s best defensive line against Brenden and my line because we were scoring goals. Now we are deeper at forward and we will give other teams more to think about. It should create some good opportunities and I know I am looking forward to that. I’m very anxious and excited about seeing this team on the ice and seeing what we can do.”
It’s a long time to the playoffs and there is much to be done. The Stars know that you can’t make the playoffs in October but they also know you can put yourself in a tough spot if you do not get off to a good start. While Ribiero and his teammates would love to fast-forward to April, they know that they have 82 games to play and all of them are important.
“We didn’t get off to the best start last season and that is our focus right now – get off to a good start and put ourselves into position to make a run at the division,” Ribeiro said. “We have a lot of last year’s team back and that is exciting. We have some good leaders on this team and a lot of talent. We’re all one year older with more experience and we expect a lot out of ourselves. We’re all working toward the same goal.”
New assistant coach Stu Barnes had the locker right next to Ribeiro and the two are good friends. Ribeiro knew Barnes was thinking about a move like this and now that it has happened he feels it is a good fit.
“(Barnes) has been playing here for a long time and I know his family loves it here in Dallas,” Ribeiro said. “He was a big part of our team and a big leader for us. To have him as a coach will be great for everyone. Barnsie is a guy that everyone likes and respects. Just being around him will be good for everyone on this team. He has a lot of experience. I know he’s going to be heavily involved in the PK (penalty killing unit) and I think he’ll do a great job with that. He was an excellent penalty killer as a player and we all have a lot of confidence in him. It will be kind of weird to have him as a coach instead of a teammate but I’m sure it will be a smooth transition for everyone. If you need help, he is a guy you can always go to. The young guys and even the veterans would bounce things off him. He’s just so smart.
“It might be interesting the first few practices but it will be fun. But I think Barnsie will do a great job.”