According to AJC beat reporter Mike Knobler the Thrashers will play newly-claimed Rich Peverley at center--and if practice is any guide he will center the Kovalchuk line. A number of fans and The Hockey News have dumped on the organization for a waiver claim on Kovalchuk's line. Certainly it is an statement about the lack of depth and the failure of Erik Christensen and Jason Williams to fill that role.
The guys at Baseball Prospectus like to say that "you're either contending or you're rebuliding" in sports. In the past the Thrashers have either been in denial about rebuilding (like last season) or they have simply failed to far enough in terms of giving minor leaguers and prospects the test drive they ought to have received. When you're on pace of 65 points in the standings it is wise to check out anybody on waviers with a pulse and some hockey skills. What do you have to lose? Not much.
Every so often there is a guy in the minors who is given a shot by NHL team and he turns out to be useful NHL player. Back when I was a young NHL fan I remember Detroit trading for a guy name Paul Ysebart who was racking up points in New Jersey Devils organization but they lacked faith in him. After he arrived in Detroit and was placed on a scoring line Ysebaert went on to post to two 30+ goal seasons. Was he an All-Star? No but he had some talent and proved useful for a time.
Another example of this is the "fish that got away" aka "Chris Kunitz" whom the Thrashers wisely claimed off waivers only to have Bob Hartley refuse to give him a real opportunity in the NHL. Anaheim got Kunitz back when the Thrashers tried to send him down to the AHL and after he was given a realistic shot in the NHL he posted 40, 50 and 60 points in the NHL. Again, he's no All-Star but he is decent complimentary guy.
Getting back to Peverley, his AHL stats are pretty impressive and his NHL numbers less so. Peverley was a scorer duing his four seasons at St. Lawrence University where he average 0.85 points per game. He has scored at every level other than the NHL.
Peverley Minor League Numbers
|Season||Age||League||Points Per Game|
His NHL production is a paltry 0.27 points per game (roughly 3rd line numbers) but it is likely he was not used in offensive situations. I'm all for sticking him on the Kovalchuk line and giving it a shot. So far this year Kovalchuk has had little chemistry with Chrisensen, Williams and Perrin.
The other plus side for a guy like Peverley is that he will be extremely cheap. For the Thrashers to contend they simply MUST get more bang for each buck that they spend. If Peverley produces he could be a tremedous bargain for a couple of seasons. (Like Kunitz could have been)
A club like the Thrashers would be wise to give a cheap minor leaguer like Peverley, Haydar, Krog, Chris Kunitz or Brett Sterling a legitimate shot each year. These players typically come with flaws but if you can squeeze a 40-50 point season out of player making close to the NHL minumum--that means you can make those cap dollars go further (like paying your super stars the going rate).
Scorers always end up getting paid in the long--a GM earns his keep by finding value in cheap players before they start making the big bucks (the Red Wings find guys like Mikael Samuelsson and Dan Cleary). A revenue poor team like Atlanta really needs to exploit cheap offensive guys like the Rich Peverleys and Chris Kunitizs of the world.
I'm actually encourage that Rich Peverley is going line up with Kovalchuk on Wednesday night. That tells me that the organziation is being realistic about where they are and they're using games and ice time wisely to look for bargains and players who could help in next season.