By: Joe Pohoryles
I recently evaluated the longest- and shortest-tenured players for each DC sports team, and in a similar fashion, I will begin looking at a middle ground of sorts: the best one-year wonders for each team.
A one-year wonder in a sports context can be defined as a player who only had one good season in their entire career, such as Peyton Hillis, who totaled 1,647 scrimmage yards and 13 total touchdowns as a running back for the Cleveland Browns in 2010, and was featured on the cover of the Madden 12 video game for the following season, then never eclipsed 600 rushing yards or three touchdowns for the remaining four years of his career.
On a franchise scale, it can be defined as a player who starred in his lone season with the team. For this series, we will be going by the latter definition. For all four DC teams, players have come and gone after one season, most not making any notable impact, but a select few turning in star-level performances. In this series, we will be looking at the players who made the most of their limited time in DC, beginning with the Capitals.
Mike Ribeiro (Center, 2012-13)
Ribeiro was traded to the Capitals on an expiring contract with the Dallas Stars during the 2012 offseason in exchange for Cody Eakin and the 54th overall pick in the 2012 draft. (Mike Winther was selected in that slot, and he never broke into the NHL.)
Ribeiro began his career with the Montreal Canadiens in 1999-2000, where he put up two points in 19 games. 2001-02 was the first time Ribeiro had a consistent place in the NHL, and he finally broke out in the ’03-04 season with 65 points in 81 games in his age 23 season.
His peak came with the Dallas Stars, where he landed in 2006, and immediately led the team in points during his first season (59). His career-high 83 points in ’07-08 were tied for 12th in the league that year, and Ribeiro never finished a season with fewer than 53 points for the remainder of his time in Dallas.
Upon his trade to Washington, Ribeiro instantly slotted in as a veteran scoring threat, and he didn’t even spend a true full season with the team. The 2012-13 NHL lockout shortened the season from a normal 82 games to 48. Ribeiro appeared in all 48 games and finished second on the team with 49 points (13g, 36a), sandwiched between Alex Ovechkin (56 points) and Nicklas Backstrom (48).
Ribeiro and the rest of the Caps lost their scoring touch in the playoffs, falling in the first round to the New York Rangers in seven games, where Ribeiro totaled just two points (1g, 1a). With the 33-year-old Ribeiro at the end of his contract and looking for a long-term deal, the Caps let him walk, despite such a prolific season.
He would instead sign a four-year deal with the Phoenix Coyotes, but was bought out after one season, where he tallied 47 points in 80 games, and alcohol-related issues also contributed to the early buyout. He went on to sign a one-year deal with the Nashville Predators, where he rebounded with 62 points in 82 games during the 2014-15 season (second-most on the team). After another season-and-a-half with Nashville, Ribeiro was waived and finished the season in the AHL. After suffering a relapse with the alcohol abuse that he struggled with for his entire career, Ribeiro retired from professional hockey.
With the Capitals’ strong culture, and Ribeiro’s great fit in the roster, it would have been interesting to see if he could have kept up with his production and avoided his troubles had he re-signed in Washington. Instead, he’ll remain the best single-season Capital in franchise history, and by a wide margin among skaters.
Tomas Vokoun put together a strong season in net for the Caps in 48 games during the 2011-12 season, posting a .917 save percentage and 2.51 goals against average, but Ribeiro’s 49 points were the most among players who spent just one season in Washington, and that came on a shortened schedule. The next closest players were Milan Novy in 1982-83 (48 points in 73 games) and Dennis Ververgaert in 1980-81 (41 points in 79 games).
Ribeiro was on pace to match his career-high 83 points from 2007-08, and although the playoffs were a different story, fans can always wonder what would have been had Ribeiro stuck around longer.