Receiving a second chance in this world is unfortunately troublesome. Sometimes the hard work, positive attitude and hope are crushed by the people responsible for making the final decision. And other moments, it’s about being in the right place at the right time.
Atlanta, a team introduced into the NHL in 2000 recording just 14 wins that first year, knew they’d have to take risks for the purpose of survival. With just one playoff qualification in their nine seasons of existence, changes have been made in the organization.
But this squad has been recognized for more bad than good. First overall selection in the 1999 Entry Draft, Patrik Stefan gave writers a super selection to place onto draft bust indexes alongside Alexandre Daigle and Brian Lawton. Here’s a refresher if anyone forgot how his career was summarized.
Damian Rhodes, Milan Hnilicka, Pasi Nurminen, Byron Dafoe, Fred Cassivi, Michael Garnett, Mike Dunham, Johan Hedberg and of course Kari Lehtonen have all tried their luck in being the last line of defense. While Lehtonen did get them to the postseason in 2007, it was a sweeping series and his groin problems aren’t vanquishing.
In 2006, the offense had Ilya Kovalchuk, Marian Hossa, Marc Savard, Vyacheslav Kozlov and Peter Bondra who could still fly at the time. They scored 281 goals yet missed the postseason because 275 allowed cancelled it out. Goaltending has always been their Achilles’ heel.
Ondrej Pavelec appears ready for certain though and Lehtonen’s reign in Atlanta is seeing its last days. General manager Don Waddell made two distinct acquisitions during the past year for the sake of his team and giving Kovalchuk new options to work with.
Unwanted in Nashville, he offered Rich Peverley a means of separation by grabbing him from the waiver wire on January 10th of 2009. The 27-year-old averaged almost a point per game through 39 matches and many still weren’t convinced.
If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Peverley leads Atlanta with 24 points this season and has earned himself a multi-year contract with the Thrashers. Talented in numerous ways, Nashville clearly had no idea what they were giving up on.
Maxim Afinogenov became a regular resident in the doghouse under Lindy Ruff in Buffalo. After 2007, the Russian fell into an injury phase and his play and popularity deteriorated. He had his moments there and the Sabres knew what Max was capable of but figured his best days were behind him.
So Waddell invited Afinogenov to training camp last summer and he’s displaying possibly the best hockey of his career at an $800,000 price tag. Confidence, speed, scoring and ability; it’s all back finally.
Two players, two second breaks, two fantastic stories.
Don Waddell did so much by doing so little showing the amazing efficiency of people who need nothing more than a little faith and opening. How many players have failed at their one true shot and pray that someday they will get another chance? Sadly, dreams are unanswered more often than they are conquered.
Rich Peverley and Maxim Afinogenov have gotten what millions like them haven’t been able to find and likely never will.