Sunday, June 24, 2012

Thoughts on Ribeiro

It'll be interesting to see how the Capitals do with a center who can put up some solid offensive numbers.

At first glance, Ribeiro looks good. His first big season came just prior to the lockout with 65 points in 81 games with Montreal, and since then he's done 51 in 79, 59 in 81, 83 in 76, 78 in 82, 53 in 66, 71 in 82, and 63 in 74. Let's take a slightly deeper look on what we might expect from Ribeiro in 2012-2013.

(all numbers from behindthenet.ca or NHL.com)

Chemistry. In Dallas Ribeiro has always had shooters to play with. This past season, his most frequent 5v5 linemates were Michael Ryder, Loui Eriksson, and Brendan Morrow (the four of them combined for 628 shots, averaging 2.13 shots per player per game: Morrow missed 25 games). In 10-11, Morrow and Jamie Benn (2.36 per game per player). In 09-10, Morrow and Benn again (2.20). In 08-09, Ott and Lehtinen (2.18; Lehtinen missed nearly half the season).

All those players, minus maybe Ott and Lehtinen, are guys who will shoot a lot. He may not be as productive without players with an ability to get a lot of shots off from good locations (Semin, Backstrom, and Ovechkin, basically, at this point). Slotting him with Laich and Chimera wouldn't be the worst idea, since Laich can provide a strong defensive conscience, Chimera is very effective at moving the puck up the ice, and the two of them do get volume (both over 2 shots per game last season and both recently have broken 200 shots in a season), but in that case I expect Ribeiro's numbers to take a hit.

The top five shooters by volume in UFA: Zach Parise (293, 8th in NHL), Ray Whitney (185, 92nd), Alexander Semin (183, 100th), Jaromir Jagr (170, 119th), and PA Parenteau (167, 127th). I fully expect Parise would break 300 and Semin 200 playing with Ribeiro.

Possession. He was outchanced at even strength (actually, by the worst margin among Stars regulars when you consider zone starts). Ideally, your 2C isn't a liability while on the ice, but, (slightly) positive on-ice plus-minus rate notwithstanding, it appears Ribeiro was getting close to being just that.

As for Corsi:

07-08: very easy competition, Sedin starts, great Corsi
08-09: easy competition, good zone starts, great Corsi
09-10: tough competition, hard zone starts, decent Corsi
10-11: tough competition, good zone starts, decent Corsi
11-12: solid competition, good zone starts, below average Corsi

Faceoffs. He's not Andrew Cogliano (under 40%), but he won't do much better than 45%. And somehow that may very well make this team better, given that 45% might be better than Johansson can muster.

Situational starts. If you want to maintain his production and make sure he outchances his opposition, you'll probably need to give him easy competition and good zone starts. That, unfortunately, can probably apply to at least four Caps forwards (Ovechkin, Perreault, Johansson, Ribeiro), and I think there's a good chance those forwards are spread out over three lines. In other words, he's not as versatile as a guy like Stastny or Getzlaf.

Ribeiro among Stars forwards ranked 5th in competition, 10th in Corsi Rel, and 1st in zone start% (only 53.7%, though: Dallas was a slightly below average team by Fenwick tied).

From a great "obituary" on Ribeiro's time in Dallas:

He [Ribeiro] created more tactical problems for the Stars in 2012 than he did for the opposition. As the season wore on the Stars coaching staff recognized that they needed to keep Ribeiro away from their own net and, generally, away from the top offensive lines of the opposition. They did, and the Eriksson, Ribeiro, and Ryder trio took off production-wise after the All Star Break.
[...]
When you consider the cupcake minutes he was getting down the stretch the Stars needed Ribeiro to be a more positive player. For every 60 even strength minutes of ice time Ribeiro was plus .1 goals. Put another way, it took Ribeiro about forty games worth of even strength time to generate one net goal for the Stars in easy minutes. Jamie Benn generated one net goal every five games.

Emphasis mine. I disagree that the minutes were all that easy--second-liners with good-not-great zone starts, albeit with two of the three best forwards available for him to play with in Eriksson and Ryder--but having a guy who adds +2 to the team's ES goal differential over the course of the season isn't all that helpful and can easily be found for less cap hit on the free agent market.

By the way, that on-ice goal differential rate for Ribeiro ranks second-best out of his five seasons BtN has individual data listed. For sake of comparison, Alexander Semin's rate this past season was a net goal every ten games, which is his fourth-worst over the last five seasons. Yes, the Capitals were better at 5v5, but not by much: a 1.01 GF/GA ratio at 5v5, compared to 0.98 for Dallas.

GVT takes a more favorable view of Ribeiro, awarding him 11.1 goals versus threshold, 110th in the league (which is well above-average second line).

Penalties. In 07-08 Ribeiro drew 21 minors and took 13 at 5v5. In 08-09, drew 35 and took 17. In 09-10, drew 19 and took 12. In 10-11, drew 20 and took 6. In 11-12, drew 8 and took 12. If Ribeiro can bounce back, this is where he can help a lot. A +12 in penalties should be +2 or better on the board thanks to power plays and represents a big improvement over Semin, who tends to be even or slightly worse.

Shootouts. With a  38.2% conversion rate and 21 goals, Ribeiro is the Caps' new leader in shootout goals (one ahead of Ovechkin) and trails only Matt Hendricks in conversion rate.

All in all, Ribeiro's play took a pretty sharp drop from 10-11 to 11-12 and he's at the age when that can happen. Hopefully that drop is not a sign of his age and he can bounce back to the dangerous player he once was. Despite unimpressive plus-minus rates over the past five seasons, those rates were achieved playing against other teams' top players or second liners, so soft competition could work wonders for Ribeiro.

If he can't bounce back, the Capitals' second line might be a lot worse next season, going from the best player being a guy with a consistently stellar on-ice plus minus rate to a guy who barely breaks even plus $1.7 million in extra cap room.

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