The 2016-17 season is now a week old and Brooks Laich has yet to play a game for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He has yet to play a game with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. He has yet to play… at all. Laich is healthy, he’s willing, and he’s able. So what’s going on?
When the Maple Leafs acquired Laich from the Washington Capitals at the NHL Trade Deadline last season, it was more of a salary dump for Washington than a strategic addition for Toronto. However, Laich is an experienced veteran player who plays a smart, rugged style of hockey. If it wasn’t for his steep salary, many would have been shocked when Laich was put on waivers last week prior to the NHL roster deadline. However, he unsurprisingly cleared waivers. Yet, the team delayed sending him down to the Marlies. Since, he has been reassigned though.
According to Maple Leafs beat reporter Kristen Shilton who spoke with Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe, apparently the hold-up is simply that the organization does not know where they want Laich to play. Conversations have been ongoing between both coaching staffs, management, and even Laich himself. A healthy veteran with the ability to contribute, it seems as if there is confusion over whether he would benefit the young Leafs squad as an NHL player or the even younger Marlies team as more of a mentor. Since Laich put up only 14 points and was a -13 in 81 games between the Caps and Leafs last season, it seems more likely that he’ll stay with the Marlies until he is needed by the big-league team. The situation is strange and somewhat unprecedented, but a solution is expected soon.