At the end of the 2011-12 season, Mike Ribeiro had a feeling his six-year run with the Dallas Stars had come to an end. The Stars struggled for the past several years, failing to make the playoffs since 2007-08, and the veteran center knew the organization planned to make alterations this summer.
“I actually kind of knew I was probably going to get traded, I just didn’t know where,” Ribeiro said. “We changed coaches twice and we didn’t make the playoffs the last four years so you figure that the next thing they may do is trade the top salary or the top player, so I was waiting for it and just didn’t know where I was going.”
Landing with the Capitals, who have been in search of additional playmakers at center for the past three seasons, gives Ribeiro the opportunity to do what he does best – create offense.
In his introductory press conference Saturday, the veteran center expressed his excitement about playing with Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the Capitals’ offensive talents.
“Obviously it’s a team with a lot of skill and a lot of talent and I’m here to create. I’m a guy that likes to create so it’s nice to have to guys who can put the puck in the net,” said Ribeiro, who was visiting Washington for the first time since the trade to look for a house and meet with team officials.
Playing with Ovechkin was “the first thing that crossed my mind,” Ribeiro said. “I like right-handers; he’s a right-handed shooter and it will probably be easier for me during the game — it’s easier to give the puck to a guy like that and score.”
Along those same lines, Ribeiro said he wants to help bolster the power play as well – the Capitals were ranked 18th at 16.7 percent last season – while setting up right-handed shots like Ovechkin and Mike Green.
As the Capitals’ roster stands now, Ribeiro, 32, will be one of only three forwards over the age of 30 in the lineup next season. Despite being one of the more experienced players in the mix, Ribeiro said he’s looking forward to working with new Coach Adam Oates, whom he grew up watching. The two met in person last week during Ribeiro’s visit to get acquainted and talk about the upcoming season.
“We’re kind of similar in a sense — he wasn’t that fast, I’m not that fast; he’s a guy that likes to create plays and I’m kind of the same,” Ribeiro said. “Obviously he was probably better than me as passer but it was nice. It was nice and comfortable, he looks cool and relaxed and really down to earth and I guess for players like us, it’s nice to know that your coach played in the league and knows the game a little bit more. I’m just anxious to come here and learn again. I’ve learned from all my coaches and I’m sure I’m going to learn again.”
When asked about his impressions of Ribeiro, who sported a diamond stud earring and chain on Saturday, Oates’s initial reaction focused on his appearance.
“Well, skinnier than I thought he was,” Oates said, garnering a few chuckles. “Oh my. He’s a rapper. Looks like a rapper.”
While the coach and center may have different sense of fashion, Oates said he’s happy to have Ribeiro in the lineup.
“As a coach, unfortunately the first thing for you is you always watch the guys in the position you played, so centermen are the first guys I kind of see in my mind all the time,” Oates said. “To be a playmaking center along with Nick, obviously, I’m pretty excited about it and I hope he is and he was…..Very, very excited and we’re glad to have him.”
— For those wondering why Ribeiro chose to wear No. 9, here’s the background:
“I grew up wearing No. 9 all the time,” Ribeiro said. “And then got drafted by Montreal, I guess 9 wasn’t there anymore [retired for Maurice Richard]. So they gave me 71 and I just kept that one. And then I got traded to Dallas and 9 wasn’t available either [in use by Mike Modano]. Now I can choose a number. My first one, they gave it to me. Second one, I was 63, no one had it. When I came here, first thing I said was, ‘Well, 9 is free.’ So the first time after 12 years, I can play with it.”