Last summer, Mike Ribeiro was a sought-after NHL free agent. The Phoenix Coyotes signed him to a four-year deal worth $22 million. One year later, on July 15, 2014, free agent Ribeiro ageed to a one-year deal with the Nashville Predators, worth $1.05 million. So, what happened? As Coyotes GM Don Maloney said regarding Ribiero's buyout/release on June 27, 2014, "Mike had some real behavioral issues we felt we could not tolerate going forward.” There is no doubt Ribeiro has a lot of talent. The most telling moment about his "behavioral issues", was his 2010 public intoxication arrest in Plano, Texas while a member of the Dallas Stars. This was a single indicator of a deeper problem.
The veteran center has at least somewhat acknowledged his problem, saying during his 2013 season with Washington, “It starts with better decisions. Instead of after a game going to have beer with the boys, I’ll go home. Instead of going to bed at four in the morning, I’ll go to bed at 12 at night. I eat better, I take better care of my body … I’m just more focused not on myself, but on being there for my family and helping my team win.” It sounds like there should be some hope, but if a player has not had a true change of heart by age 34, it would take an eternal optimist to think it is suddenly going to happen now.
This is the other side of being a professional athlete. This is also proof that not all paid athletes are truly "professional." Being a professional is about conducting one's self in a certain manner at all times; it is about strength of character.
At Ribeiro's age, he cost himself millions of dollars as well. In just one year, he went from having a team willing to pay $5.5 mil per season for four seasons, to having just one team offer just $1.05 mil for a single season. Maybe this realization will be enough to finally put the party-boy's lifestyle in proper perspective. In fact, even this latest contract may have just been due to a combination of bad luck and desperation. Just last week, Nashville learned that center Mike Fisher will a great portion of the upcoming season, due to a ruptured Achilles tendon. Were it not for Fisher's injury, Ribeiro's career might well be over.
Western conference powers Chicago (if they could find a little salary cap room), Anaheim, and San Jose could all use another strong creative center, but none of those teams had come calling. Overall, skilled centers have become a premium in the NHL. Just imagine how well he could have fit into free-wheeling offenses such as those run in Chicago, Anaheim, and San Jose. Nobody is willing to take the chance. It's too bad he didn't value the opportunity given him by the Coyotes. Nashville is on its way back to relevance, but not yet a Cup contender. It will be interesting to see if Ribeiro even makes it through a full season in Nashville.