There has been a buzz in the desert for the last several weeks/months surrounding this Phoenix Coyotes club that hit the ice for the first time on Thursday. A team that locked up one of the top free agents on the market and finally secured stability, as far as their ownership is concerned, is raring to go for the start of the 2013-14 season.
That top free agent was Mike Ribeiro. What should the Coyotes expect out of him in his first year with the team? After all, this is a guy who is coming off of a brilliant season, with a Washington Capitals team that was much more offensively savvy than these Coyotes are. That's just a fact.
The reactions, from Coyotes fans and NHL fans in general, when the Coyotes signed Ribeiro were mixed. Some were impressed that they were able to pull off the signing, while others questioned whether or not the veteran center is worth the four years and $5.5 million cap hit that resulted when the two sides put the pen to paper.
Regardless of nation perceptions of the contract, there's little doubt that Ribeiro brings a flavor to the Coyotes that hasn't been seen around Jobing.com in several years. He's a supremely talented player, and a premier playmaker. Does that mean that we should expect him to put up point-per-game numbers like he did last year? Not necessarily, but that may not be completely his fault.
Ribeiro's 2013 season was nothing short of brilliant. Even as the Capitals struggled early on, he was a consistent source of offense. He led the league in points with the man advantage and his 36 assists were good for fifth in the league.
Make no mistake about it, Ribeiro was brought in to turn this Coyotes offense around. A team that has been built on defense, they've seen a lack of offensive prowess cost them big time in recent years. Ribeiro is here to fix that, although expectations for what may actually show up on the stat sheet should be tempered, at least to a certain degree.
Ribeiro will be logging minutes between Mikkel Boedker and Shane Doan, at least to start the year. Boedker is an up-and-comer, while Doan will put up points, even if he isn't the offensive player he once was. Ribeiro's arrival will benefit both players, which should lead to a breakout year for Boedker and a rebound year for Doan.
It's hard to project exactly what the Coyotes are going to get out of Ribeiro in 2013-14. What is known, is that expectations are going to be high. They should be. He's a premier playmaker and as creative a center as this organization has seen in a while. If there is a concern, it's whether or not the players around him have the chops to allow him to flash his full skill set.
Perhaps it's unreasonable to expect another point-per-game season out of Ribeiro, as he adjusts to a new environment and new teammates. At the very least, we're going to see this Coyotes team improve in the offensive end. The effects of having a guy like Ribeiro around the top trio, could very well trickle down to the rest of the team.
There's a reason that the buzz around this organization has been building over the course of the offseason. Much of it is due to the arrival of Ribeiro. He's back under coach Dave Tippett, where he's previously thrived. He has a high end offensive talent to his left, and a steady, physical presence to his right. There is a reason to be excited about the now 1-0 Coyotes club heading into 2013-14, and Mike Ribeiro has a whole lot to do with it.