As we close in on Thanksgiving, our thoughts naturally turn to the blessings that we are thankful for in our lives. For so many of us, these include family, friends, our health… as well the health of those who are close to us… and for so many of us, we give thanks for the jobs we currently have.
Rich Peverley can certainly be counted as one who can be thankful for his current employment and the position he finds himself in…and last Saturday he shared with us how he is indeed grateful for the opportunity afforded him by the Thrashers last January.
Certainly he, nor anyone else, could not have predicted what was about to transpire as he prepared to leave the Nashville Predators for their AHL affiliate in Milwaukee during the middle of last season…a destination he never had to make. Instead, he was plucked off of the waiver wire and headed for Georgia. A few short days later, he was starting his first game as a Thrasher. On top of that, he was to center the first line that Ilya Kovalchuk played on no less.
Quite a swing there…eh, Rich?
“It was a crazy time”, he told me.” I wasn’t sure if I was going to play the American League or if I was going to be picked up by [an NHL team]. I was lucky to be picked up by Atlanta and lucky to picked up by a coach who was going to play me”.
“I was thankful I got the opportunity”, he continued. “Just going from playing hardly any minutes to playing with Ilya Kovalchuk right away helped me get a good jump”.
As I’m sure you’ll all remember, Peverley fit in right away and help spark a team that was not playing well to one that finished last spring on a very positive note. In just his second game in an Atlanta jersey, he capped off a great come-from-behind win against the Maple Leafs by knocking home the game-winner in overtime.
In his comments after the game, it was easy to tell how happy he was to be here and to be playing with one of the top stars in the league. “It’s tremendous to be able to contribute…to get an overtime winner was great but it was also a great play by Kovalchuk.”
He was an instant hit with fans, his new teammates and coaches as well.
“I think he’s exactly what we thought he was, and more”, assistant coach Randy Cunneyworth said of the 27-year old native of Guelph, Onterio. “The more we’ve utilized him, the better he’s played…no matter what line we’ve put him on he’s been a spark plug. It’s so easy to put him on any line and let him go to work and get those guys going”.
The Thrashers carried their good play last spring over to this fall by getting off to a winning start. The same is true with Peverley’s performance. He leads the team with 24 overall points and his 16 assists is second behind Nik Antropov’s 19…helping to bolster his nickname “The Pevs Dispenser” as he has this great propensity to dispense the puck onto teammate’s sticks who then score goals…or just dispenses it into the net himself as he’s done 8 times already this season.
In the case of Bryan Little, Pevs banked the biscuit off his skate to finally get Little his first goal of the season.
Peverley has played in a total of 59 games for the Thrashers and has scored a total of 21 goals and 38 assists during that time. In comparison, he mustered up a grand total of 7 goals and 13 assists in 73 games played in a Nashville Predators uniform. He’s a +20 playing for Atlanta whereas he was an EVEN rating with the Preds. And with all his fine work on the offensive side of the ice, it’s almost easy to overlook his solid, responsible play in the defensive zone…which was a skill set that was much needed by this team upon his arrival.
As thankful as he says he was to be here, Thrasherville was equally happy to have him.
Fortunately for Thrashers fans, Rich didn’t wait for late November to arrive to display his full measure of gratitude toward the organization that gave him a chance eleven months prior. As the season was just in its first weeks, he agreed to a new $2.6 million contract that’ll keep him in Atlanta for at least 2 more years…doing so instead of testing the free agency market this coming summer.
But why sign here now and forgo the chance to have multiple other teams offer even more for his services? Well, for Peverley…it’s simply a matter of returning the favor to those who took a chance on him earlier in the year.
“Well, you know, they gave me an opportunity”, Peverley said. “It’s a good fit here…I’m playing a lot of minutes. And to be successful in the league you gotta play”.
He went on to further express how much he enjoyed the situation here and again showed his sincere appreciation for the club that reach out and plucked him off of the waiver wire last winter. “I was thankful for that. [The Thrashers] have a lot of good players and I wanted to be a part of a good, winning organization”.
And so the man who was blessed with being given a chance to continue playing at the NHL level last January, returned the favor in the best way he could…by putting pen to paper on a new deal early on in the process and signed for less than he most likely could have gotten after the season ended.
“I wanted to move forward…I wanted to put it behind me and I didn’t want to think about it all year”.
And for that, all of Thrasherville can give thanks.