With the off-season move of Brad Richards, there was a substantial amount of pressure on Mike Ribeiro to step up as a number one center and make the plays to have greater scoring opportunities. With a new setup which has our Dallas Stars relying more heavily on our defensive play initially, his role has been highlighted perhaps much more significantly than if we were a run-and-gun team.

There were doubts of course around whether Ribeiro was adaptable to such a gear change and after a somewhat slow start to the 2011-12 campaign, the doubters seemed at first to have got this one right. Having gone the first sixteen games of last season without bagging a goal, he is now 1-7-8 in eleven games this term. Not necessarily staggering but the usually cavalier pivot has shown an added maturity so far this season.

Team Captain Brenden Morrow, Adam Burish and Steve Ott are among the players who have voiced their approval at their new look number one center. Burish even going so far as calling him a ‘wizard with the puck’. The goals may not come thick and fast for Ribeiro but just seeing him on the ice on a single shift, you can see him mucking in, digging the puck out at the boards and more importantly than grabbing headlines for himself, he’s much more willing to dish the puck out when – only a season ago – he would’ve rather taken a shot himself.

He may not be a superstar in the mould of Richards or Mike Modano before him but playing in a system that requires quick-fire counter-attacking and pace right around the ice, this guy easily fits the bill. Under-rated for years and written off for embellishing penalty calls, it’s so great to see ‘Ribs’ finally living upto that potential. He chose to spend most of this summer at his lake house in Texas, often choosing to work out in Frisco on his own, while team-mates were on golf courses or catching up with friends and family.

That alone showed more commitment than most thought he ever would.

It’s a shame the NHL don’t have an annual award for most improved player but to be honest – the character he’s been this season – I’ve no doubt that Ribeiro would simply try to pass it on to a team-mate.

I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season holds for Mike and I wish him all the best for a season which could quite easily prove to be one of his best yet.

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