Nick Ritchie was waived by the Maple Leafs on Thursday, one day after their win over the Edmonton Oilers. Ritchie has been having ups and downs (mostly downs) recently, but Wednesday night was probably the worst. After looking at his contract for a millisecond, it wasn’t a surprise he didn’t get claimed by another NHL team.

Now, at this point, you rightfully would’ve assumed Ritchie would head to the Toronto Marlies or find his way on to the Leafs taxi squad (which is the AHL for all intents and purposes here), but instead he has somehow moved up the lineup and is on the third line ahead of tonight’s game against the Colorado Avalanche.

The short reason for that is because the Leafs have gotten another bout of COVID-19 hitting the team. Wingers Mitch Marner and Pierre Engvall are now in the NHL’s COVID protocol and out for at least the next week. Also, Ondřej Kaše is nursing an injury. So now Ritchie, who has been the 13th forward on merit, has moved up to 10th by default.

I’m not a fan of Ritchie as a player — I can see value in a type of player like him, I’ve just never seen him do what people claim him to be capable of — and I don’t think shoving him awkwardly back into the lineup after the team just tried to give him away for free is going to turn his season around between the ears.

So I ask again, why is he playing? Because at this point I’m pretty confident Kyle Clifford, Joey Anderson, and Alex Steeves are all better than him at the moment. I personally don’t see why they couldn’t move him off the lineup, take the $1.125 million in cap space, and bring up a couple of those guys to play. At the end of the day, it’s Sheldon Keefe’s decision and it’s his job to keep trying to motivate Ritchie to perform.

I hope this experiment ends soon, but unfortunately, it’s difficult to make $2.5 million for two years disappear.

Various Leafs and Branches

Update: Nick Ritchie clears waivers, likely to play in next game | by: Hardev and Katya

Hockey Sense Roundup: Olympic excitement builds as U.S. leans into youth movement | by: Chris Peters — spoiler: this is about Matthew Knies!

More Knies plays:

Nick Robertson finally makes his return to the ice after a leg injury and a bout with COVID. He’s practicing with the Marlies right now. Let him get into some games and see how he is before we try to rush him into the NHL. The Leafs have good depth right now on the Marlies. They probably don’t need him this year and I don’t think they’re going to make the same mistake twice of rushing him again.

The NHL has postponed two more Ottawa Senators games, with more Winnipeg Jets games possibly on the way.

And finally, John Klingberg has requested a trade. Here’s how he’s performed recently for the sixth place in the central Dallas Stars. That’s an age curve if I’ve ever seen one. Maybe there’s a dead cat bounce following a possible trade, but he’s in the final year of his deal so whoever takes him won’t be able to get him for the $4.25 million he’s making now.

Katya here, hijacking Hardev’s train to add this:

Warning for explicit racist language.

This is the article that goes with the video:

More than a decade on, there is one word, one notion that still gnaws at this reporter from a question asked of now-Toronto Maple Leafs forward Wayne Simmonds.

We were standing in the London Knights’ dressing room in Budweiser Gardens on Sept. 21, 2011 after an NHL preseason game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Detroit Red Wings.

Minutes earlier, Simmonds was skating in alone on a shootout attempt, a fan – later identified as 26-year-old Christopher Moorhouse – launched a banana peel onto the ice from the upper deck towards Simmonds in obvious, aggressively racist behavior. It was the second banana peel thrown at Simmonds that game; the other was lobbed late in the third period when Simmonds scored a goal, but never made it over the glass.

“When you’re a black man playing in a predominantly white man’s sport, you’ve got to come to expect things like that,” Simmonds told me that night.

Expect. Think about that.