Yesterday, Sam McCraig posted an article at Puck Daddy entitled "Looking ahead to 2011-12: Ranking the NHL's top 25 centers". He mentions how this is a "deep, talented bunch" and that most of those listed could have superstar status. Before he gets into the actual rankings, he provides this disclaimer:
Rankings are based solely on players' projected performances in 2011-12.
Fair enough, especially when you consider the injuries to players like Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Sidney Crosby from last season; the rankings are based on what is expected from these centers headed into the season. So where did Mike Ribeiro, newly appointed #1 center for the Dallas Stars end up on the list? Try nowhere, as in not even mentioned. Not once.
McCraig lists 25 centers and then has 5 "honorable mentions", a list of who he believes to be the top performing centers for next season. Now, lists like these are entirely subjective, but I wonder if a player like Mike Ribeiro even crossed his mind. I know that Mike Ribeiro may not have "superstar" written across his shoulders, but it is undeniable that he is one of the most consistently top-producing centers in the NHL. The fact that he is so easily and simply cast aside when being compared to his peers is an absolute travesty.
Taking a look at the list, it's interesting to see who was chosen ahead of Ribeiro. Sure, players like Sedin, Crosby, Toews, Stamkos and Malkin are going to automatically get the top spots because of the insane amount of points they'll put up. Can we honestly say, however, that players Dave Bolland, Tomas Plekanec, David Backes and Patrice Bergeron are better than Mike Ribeiro?
In 2010-11, Mike Ribeiro played in 82 games and put up 71 points. In a year without Crosby and Malkin for much of the season, that was good enough for 10th in the NHL amongst all centers. What's amazing is that Ribeiro did this playing on the second line and with a rotating door at right wing, never having a consistent line throughout the season. Yet it was still the third best season of his career, and for many it looked as if he had even started to really take strides in improving the defensive side of his game.
Patrice Bergeron had 57 points last season in 80 games, 25th among centers. Plekanec had the same. Dave Bolland's best season was 47 points in 81 games, way back in 2008-09. Jordan Staal didn't rank in the top 30 centers last season. I could go down the line with this, as nearly every player in the bottom half of this ranking has produced at a much lower rate than Ribeiro.
What's really frustrating is that there are multiple centers named for several teams, while the Stars aren't mentioned at all.
Consider this; in the past four seasons, Ribeiro has finished in the top 11 in scoring amongst all centers three times. The one season where he fell off, last year, was when his season was cut short after suffering a devastating neck injury.
In 2007-08, when Mike Ribeiro was the top center for the Stars and playing with a consistent right wing, he finished 6th in the NHL in scoring for centers. You can't say that the only reason he finished in the top 10 last season was because of the absence of players like Crosby and Malkin; he's done it before and he's done it consistently the entire time he's been in Dallas.
So why the snub? Is it a personal vendetta against the Dallas Stars or Mike Ribeiro? Does McCraig truly believe that Ribeiro doesn't deserve to even be mentioned when it comes to the top 30 centers in the NHL?
To me, this is an issue that has to do with how the Stars are perceived right now across the hockey world and not so much to do with Mike Ribeiro. Now that Brad Richards is gone, the Stars have become an afterthought in hockey and have suddenly joined the ranks with teams like Florida, Phoenix and the now-departed Atlanta. These past few seasons have hurt the Stars' reputation not just in Dallas but across the NHL and as this team struggles to be sold and struggles to keep its head above water in the standings, the rest of hockey just keeps charging ahead and forgets about what is happening down in Dallas.
Now that Brad Richards is gone, there's really no reason to even consider the Stars. Right? After all, there is no true 'superstar' on this team, apparently, and no matter how many points may have been produced by its number two center last season, there's no real need to mention that center when comparing to the rest of the NHL. It's amazing how the Stars, with some of the numbers put up by its players the past few seasons, are completely overlooked when it comes to these sorts of rankings. It happens, however, and it's happening more and more frequently.
When ESPN named its Top 100 forwards in the NHL for fantasy hockey rankings, Jamie Benn wasn't anywhere on the list -- despite being 68th in the NHL amongst all scorers (ALL scorers) with 56 points in 69 games. Once again, I wonder if Benn was ever considered.
It's not just the hockey media, either. In a recent contest that pitted Logan Couture against Jamie Benn, Couture won in a landslide -- despite Benn having better numbers and playing a much better game overall. Yet Couture is better known throughout the hockey world and is apparently much more popular and it was reflected in the poll numbers.
So here we come back around to this harmless list by Mr. McCraig. It's a subjective list and everyone is entitled to their opinion. I just find it maddening that, once again, the Dallas Stars and Mike Ribeiro are not even an afterthought when held up in comparison to the rest of the NHL. Ribeiro finished in the top 25 in the NHL for all scorers, not just centers and while he perhaps isn't the best two way player in the game I challenge you to tell me that all 30 players on this list are better than Ribeiro up and down the ice.
Brad Richards is gone, departed for the New York Rangers, so no need to pay any attention to the Dallas Stars. That's the feeling that is persistent to me now, and one that was more than evident the past six months when the countdown to Richards' departure was in full swing. Without an owner and with their only "star" gone, the Dallas Stars don't have a chance and there's no reason to pay any attention to the great players still on the team -- despite what facts and numbers may suggest.
It's not because of point production or because of the standings in the NHL; last I checked, the Dallas Stars were the first team in the NHL to finish with 95 points and still miss the playoffs. The Stars had two of the top ten centers in the NHL last year, and one of them is still with the team and taking on a bigger role. So saying that the Stars don't have a top player and aren't going to be competitive next season just feels like an empty argument.
Ribeiro has also shown that when given that top spot, he's still among the best the NHL has to offer. Sure, he may not be a national superstar because of personal resentment or whatever idiotic reason those up north may offer for their dislike towards, but you can't deny he's one of the best that hockey has to offer.