In an act of unprecedented annoyance, the Montréal Canadiens claimed Adam Brooks on waivers. They are entering this season with so many injuries, they have only six defencemen healthy, so naturally they grabbed the 14th forward off the Leafs. They actually do have some weakness on their fourth line, and it was always possible Brooks and his 12% shooting percentage was going to attract attention on the way to the Marlies. All is not lost, however.

First, Brooks might actually get some NHL games played like he wasn’t going to get in Toronto. He deserves to play because after spending a lot of time on the Taxi Squad last year, he played in 11 NHL games, 2 NHL playoff games and 17 AHL games. This is after playing only 36 games in total the prior year because of injuries. He’s at his peak performance years, and he needs to be playing.

Second, Brooks might actually stick in their lineup, and if he gets a fulltime NHL career out of this, that’s more than he really was destined for in Toronto. I don’t think it was even a hard call to waive Brooks, since the Leafs have Michael Amadio and Krill Semyonov ahead of him.

Do you remember...

Unfortunately, I think Brooks has a lot in common with Seth Griffith, so if you’ve forgotten the saga of one of the most overrated Leafs prospects, who is nonetheless an excellent AHLer, have a trip down memory lane:

Griffith is a winger on the small side, who played some centre in his youth. In 2016, while the Leafs were a month away from drafting Auston Matthews, and Adam Brooks, the Bruins somewhat grudgingly signed Griffith to a minimum salary contract off his ELC. They couldn’t really find a use for him, though, and they put him on waivers On October 10, before the 2016-2017 season began.

He was claimed by the Maple Leafs, who were struggling to find enough forwards to fill out their depth. Milan Michalek was still on the team, and Matt Martin had to play every game, there was no one else. At least not until Ben Smith was claimed a few days after Griffith.

Griffith played a little, not very well, and there were loud demands to play him at centre, but he was waived by the Leafs On November 11. I don’t know if the Bruins tried to claim him back, likely not, but the Florida Panthers did claim him, and he enjoyed the distinction of playing on a line with Jaromir Jagr very briefly.

In early January, he got injured in Florida, and when he came off of IR, that was really it for him as an NHL player. The Panthers waived him on January 19, and the Leafs made the only claim for him, sent him to the Marlies the same day, and after another tour in Buffalo the next year, he’s been a western Canadian AHL star ever since.

This is a very plausible future path for Adam Brooks, minus the Jagr stories. If the Canadiens waive him, and it seems almost certain they will at some point as their roster comes back to full health, he can be claimed by the Leafs and sent to the Marlies. That waiving and reclaiming is considered to be the same as clearing waivers if the Leafs are the only team interested.

Lawyer talk

Which brings us to this very annoyingly worded bit of the CBA, and subject of a weirdly widespread myth about what it says:

13.22 When a Club claims a Player on Regular or Unconditional Waivers, and, subsequently, in the same season it requests Waivers on the same Player and the original owning Club is the successful and only Club making a Waiver claim, then the original owning Club shall be entitled to Loan such Player to a club in another league within thirty days without further Waivers being asked; provided that such Player has not participated in ten or more NHL Games (cumulative) and remained on an NHL roster more than thirty days (cumulative) following such successful claim.

To make this clearer, let’s rewrite that with the names of the teams and the players from this potential future:

When the Canadiens claim Adam Brooks on Waivers, and, subsequently, in the same season the Canadiens request Waivers on Brooks and the Maple Leafs are the successful and only Club making a Waiver claim, then the Leafs shall be entitled to Loan Brooks to the Marlies within thirty days without further Waivers being asked; provided that Brooks has not participated in ten or more Leafs Games (cumulative) and remained on the Leafs roster more than thirty days (cumulative) following such successful claim.

The 10 games/30 days rule is the standard rule for any player who has cleared waivers and has a temporary exemption. So, if the Canadiens do waive Brooks sometime, anytime this season, he could be back on the Marlies, or some other team might grab him and give him a tryout on their NHL team. Only the Leafs get the right to send him to the minors right away, though.

The big leap

Seth Griffith is a player I remember fondly because he was, like Brooks, a guy who had a good game, worked hard, tried his best, and his best ended up being the top tier of the AHL. Whenever someone says something like, “the gap between the AHL and the NHL is so small,” I think of Griffith. And I think of Brooks. Because it really isn’t. It’s vast and the most difficult leap in hockey. It’s the toughest challenge any junior star, like Brooks, will ever face.

The Marlies do a very good job of helping a top line, power play force like Brooks move from junior, where he played mostly insulated behind an even better centre, to the AHL where the point is not points anymore. He did really well at graduating from Marlies depth school up the lineup. And that’s on him, his work and commitment.

But that last step is a doozy. Griffith couldn’t even carve out a spot on the Sabres, and he hasn’t had an NHL callup in Winnipeg or Edmonton. Most players leading their AHL teams, and the Marlies will have a pile of hot ones this year, can do a turn on the fourth line if they have to. Almost none of them can grab that roster spot permanently. There’s maybe two or three on the Marlies right now who will, someday, find a spot higher than the fourth line, and they aren’t there yet.

I think I’ll put some money down on Alex Steeves as the next guy who will one day be on waivers, and we’ll have this conversation again.