GLENDALE, Ariz. — Let’s have a show of hands for those who still wonder whether the Coyotes’ free-agent signing of Mike Ribeiro was a wise move.
Through 10 games, the Coyotes’ prized offseason acquisition has five goals and four assists, all of them coming in his last seven games. But it’s not just the fact that he’s nearing a point-per-game pace, and it’s not just that the Coyotes are 5-0-2 in those past seven games.
“He finds ways to have an effect on the game,” coach Dave Tippett said.
How is this for impact? Of Ribeiro’s nine points this season, seven have come on game-tying or go-ahead goals and three of his nine points have come on the goal that won a game.
That was the case again on Tuesday, when Ribeiro rescued the Coyotes from a late-game collapse by burying Keith Yandle’s pinpoint, cross-ice feed for the game-winner in Phoenix’s 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames at Jobing.com Arena.
“A lot of my career has been like that with tying goals or getting the lead,” said Ribeiro, who had two goals for the second straight game. “I don’t know. I just like those moments. I like to be out there and make the play.”
The knocks on Ribeiro always focused on the other parts of his game. But as was noted at the beginning of the season, his relationship to Tippett from their days in Dallas and the faith both have in one another alleviates some of that concern.
“The thing I like about him right now — he’s getting some points, he’s getting some goals, but he thinks the game,” Tippett said. “He does the right things protecting the lead. There are things he is doing that make him a real smart, complete player.”
It’s no secret the Coyotes have lacked this kind of playmaker for too long. They haven’t had a point-per-game player since Ladislav Nagy had 56 points in 51 games in 2005-06. Jeremy Roenick was the last one to do it over the long haul, notching 78 points in 75 games in 1999-2000.
Ribeiro clearly isn’t the only reason the Coyotes are succeeding, but he gives them an element they have desperately needed to push them to the next level.
“He wants the puck,” Yandle said. “He’s either going to make a good play when he gets it or shoot, but he always makes good decisions.”
The Coyotes’ offseason was filled with activity, from the ownership transition to the re-signings of GM Don Maloney, Tippett and goalie Mike Smith. But Ribeiro was the focal point of increased expectations because he was the one marquee addition to the lineup.
When he went pointless in his first three games, there were rumblings of doubt. But they never touched Ribeiro because it is not in his personality to let them touch him.
“I never look at myself like that. It’s more about being with the boys and having a good time,” he said. “I don’t like to focus too much on it and stress myself out.”
Thanks to Ribeiro’s contributions and a host of other factors, the Coyotes are accomplishing another goal they set for themselves at the start of the season: establishing dominance on home ice.
Through four games, Phoenix has earned seven of eight possible points in Glendale.
“For a new ownership to come in, you want to make sure you’re doing well on home ice,” Tippett said. “You can enhance your record and we want to create some excitement around our team.”
A goalie goal, a point-producing blue line and a free agent living up to his billing have the club well on its way to achieving just that.