The Phoenix Coyotes, as an organization, have really lacked the talent at center to succeed. They’ve had depth, but no one has stood out as a real offensive threat in the middle any time throughout their history in the desert. That changes a quite a bit with the signing of Mike Ribeiro.
The Ribeiro signing gives the Coyotes a nice 1-2 punch in the middle, between Ribeiro and Antoine Vermette, and has some implications elsewhere on the roster, other than potentially improving their offensive production. It could shift one player into a primarily defensive role.
Boyd Gordon left the Coyotes to sign elsewhere in free agency, signing for big money with the Edmonton Oilers. The Coyotes were smart to shy away from that type of price tag in order to retain him. Instead, signing Ribeiro allows Martin Hanzal to slide into a Gordon type of role.
Gordon was used primarily as a defensive center, logging minutes in his own end, with the vast majority of his starts coming in the defensive zone. This is something that we could see happen with Hanzal. While he’s not the faceoff wizard that Gordon represented, he’s strong in his own end, and a tough matchup for opposing forwards.
Not that Hanzal won’t be afforded an opportunity to succeed on offense. He has upside as an offensive player, and has a net presence that is an asset. But as far as centers go, the presence of both Ribeiro and Vermette in the middle, could push Hanzal out of serving anything above a checking line type role.
And that will allow him to be successful. While he has a skill set, particularly the size, that could help him to be an offensive threat, that has never really been his niche. He’d do well in a Gordon-type role, where his primary concern is keeping opposing teams away from the net. With Ribeiro in the mix, that’s likely exactly the type of role he could be headed towards.