The Leafs hosted the Washington Capitals on the weekend and something unusual happened. Peter Holland played in the game!
That came about because William Nylander was fine at practice and then suddenly too injured to play in the game. The Leafs have taken the unusual step of firmly stating that Nylander’s absence was a decision of their medical staff, not the coaching staff.
I’m sure it’s frustrating for the Leafs to have people speculating about why Nylander might miss a game, but then Josh Leivo, who is not on the active roster because of injury, keeps showing up at practice.
To cope with Nylander’s absence, the Leafs put Holland in Nikita Soshnikov’s spot on the fourth line with Soshnikov in Connor Brown’s spot on the Kadri line. Brown moved into Nylander’s spot on the Matthew’s line. Musical right-wingers.
The Kadri line was a lot of fun against the Capitals. Soshnikov inspired more than one Washington player to lose his temper, and he got a lot of praise from his coach after. It seemed unlikely that Soshnikov would be bounced right down to the fourth line.
Monday, in Toronto, the Leafs dealt with that by putting Nylander on the fourth line, and leaving Holland out of the mix entirely. Nylander seemed fully on board with this plan, saying the following:
William Nylander on practising on 4th line: "Yeah, no, it’s completely understandable & I just got to get back into the swing of things."— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) November 28, 2016
Today, skating out in Edmonton in preparation for tonight’s game, the lines at practice were still in this new configuration:
Lines at Leafs skate— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) November 29, 2016
No sign of Holland
But no sign of Holland.
After the practice, word came that Holland was not on the trip.
Peter Holland did not make trip following a meeting with Lou Lamouriello and his agent. #tmltalk— Paul Hendrick (@HennyTweets) November 29, 2016
There have been rumours already that Holland was on the trading block, but also questions from many people about how you trade someone you won’t play. Even harder to do is trade someone who doesn’t want to play along with showing up for practice everyday while never getting in the lineup.
We don’t know what Holland wants, although it’s safe to say playing on an NHL team figures into it. But if the Leafs had decided to try to solve their 24-man roster problem by putting Holland through waivers and sending him to the Marlies if he cleared, he may be objecting to that. But it’s entirely possible that he has simply seen too many players leap over him in the depth chart, to the point he can’t even get a fourth-line job more than once in a while, and he’s had enough. Ben Smith keeping the winger job on that fourth line over him was likely more than enough.
Whether they work something out or not, whether he’s traded, waived, or just left in some sort of hold-out limbo, it’s hard to see how this helps Holland. Mike Babcock didn’t want to play him anyway. Now he doesn’t have to.
Updated: There are two different TSN panels with Bob McKenzie talking about all of this. One is Insider Trading, where he pours water on the Nylander fire. But he does speak about Brendan Leipsic and Kasperi Kapanen and uses the phrase “NHL ready”, but it’s not clear what time frame he’s talking about in that clip. This is where he talks about James van Riemsdyk as the most logical winger to be moved “at some point”.
In the second clip, about Holland’s situation, he says that these same two wingers are players the Leafs would “like to get into the lineup at some point” and he calls Holland a permanent 13th forward on the Leafs.