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With the acquisition of Mike Ribeiro in mid June, the Washington Capitals finally plugged a hole in their lineup that they have had since the summer of 2009 – a second prime center.
Ribeiro, 32, is a playmaking pivot who has spent the last six seasons of his career with the Dallas Stars – recording 50 or more points in each and every one of those seasons. He is, without question, the type of player that Washington has lacked for the last three seasons, and he adds a new depth of scoring to a lineup that badly needed some skill following the presumed (at the time of his acquisition) and now actual departure of Alexander Semin via unrestricted free agency.
As always, the dog days of summer have left most with nothing left to ponder, as almost all free agents have been signed and almost all trades have been made. And so, fans and media alike have begun to prognosticate – and many believe that Ribeiro belongs on the second line, and that Nicklas Backstrom should return to his post on the top line alongside Alex Ovechkin.
I don’t believe that to be the case, and the reason is simple: Ribeiro playing with Alex Ovechkin could, should, and likely will be better for both players and the entire team.
While in Dallas, Ribiero was a positive puck possession player in all but one year that such statistics have been recorded; that was this past season in which his corsi relative to his teammates was a disconcerting -4.4. Every other year, however, Ribiero had a positive relative corsi (corsi rel), and those four years averaged to 6.73, an admirable number. Of course, we all hope that last season was simply an anomaly - but I digress.
Two years in particular stand out when analyzing Ribeiro's numbers: 2007-08 and 2008-09. Those two seasons, the Quebecois had an average corsi rel of 10.05, easily his best two years – and those came against the weakest relative competition that he faced in that five-year period (combined corsi rel average of -.306 compared to .711 in the other three years). Not surprisingly, those two seasons also produced the two best point totals of his career: 83 and 78 points, respectively (for more in depth analysis on Ribeiro’s last five seasons from Japers Rink, click here).
So what does this tell us about Ribeiro, and how does that tie in to Ovechkin?