The Washington Capitals blog Sick, Unbelievable has been trying to stir up a “Ribeiro4Hart” campaign on Twitter. Meanwhile, the NHL doesn’t even have Mike Ribeiro in its Hart Tracker list of candidates for the league’s top individual honor. Clearly, someone needs to get on board.
Even with tongues removed from cheeks, Caps fans don’t need any validation of how important Ribeiro has been to the offense through the season’s first 13 games. The 33-year old Canadian center was one of the few players who seemed to have his game in order when the year began, and he’s continued to pile up points even after the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have begun to contribute more.
Washington’s dramatic 6-5 overtime win in Florida on Tuesday night was Ribeiro’s best game of 2013 from a statistical standpoint. His goal and two assists ran his totals to four goals and five assists during his current five-game point streak. He’s gone pointless in only three of the Capitals 13 games, and never even two games in a row.
He’s currently tied for fourth in the league with 17 points, but an argument can be made that he’s carried more of his scoring load than all but two players. Ribeiro has figured in 47.2 percent of the Capitals 36 goals, a portion exceeded only by Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg (54.5 percent) and the ridiculous Thomas Vanek (59 percent).
Even Ribeiro’s secondary statistics have been impressive. He’s been remarkably efficient, scoring five times on just 18 shots (since that’s roughly twice his career rate, it’s not likely to last, sadly). Ribeiro is a +2 – no mean feat on a team that still has the third-worst goal differential in the league – and he’s been credited with more hits than any of the NHL’s top 20 scorers except for Steven Stamkos, Chris Kunitz and David Clarkson.
But all of that is telling you what you already know, which is that Ribeiro has been excellent, and extremely valuable to even the little success that Washington has had so far. The point of this whole examination is to point out that he’s the only person in any of these statistical discussions who changed teams since last season ended. With all due respect to Cody Eakin and Mike Winther (obtained with the draft pick in the deal), the trade that acquired Ribeiro from the Dallas Stars has been the equivalent of a hat trick, a grand slam, or any other sports cliche you’d like to use.
That gives the Caps a bit of a dilemma when it comes to what to do with Ribeiro going forward, as he’s in the last year of his current contract. You certainly don’t want to let him walk away for nothing, nor would you want to give him too may years on a new deal. Some other team might, though, since he hasn’t shown any drop in his play in his early 30s, and if the team is still floundering come the trade deadline, it might be best to move him for young players or draft picks.
Still, that’s actually a good problem for the Caps to have, one brought on by Ribeiro’s stellar play. He probably won’t end up in the real Hart Trophy race, but if there was a statue given out for “Most Valuable Player on a New Team in 2013,” he’d have that locked up to this point, hands down.