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Josh Leivo is too injured to play in the NHL

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The Leafs solve their roster problem by doing nothing about their roster problem.

2016 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

With Josh Leivo returning to the roster yesterday, they were back to 24 men for 23 jobs.

Leivo has just finished playing five games in the AHL where he played on a regular line with Frederik Gauthier and Kasperi Kapanen. He had 11 shots on goal in those games, but no points. He looked like an able player; he was not slow to the play or shying away from any physical contact. He handled a long road trip and multiple practices with seeming ease.

After his final game yesterday, TSN’s Kristen Shilten posted an excerpt of Sheldon Keefe’s thoughts on Leivo:

We saw a guy who was in need of his time here. He didn’t play much in exhibition, hadn’t played any games to date, so he needed some time.

and then:

... I think he had a lot of opportunities to score especially [on Saturday], they just didn’t fall in for him and I think he’s got his legs under him and he’s ready to play.

I watched all of Leivo’s Marlies games. I’ve watched a lot of hockey, and I’ve picked out injuries in players before they were announced. I’ve seen guys play with busted bones and torn soft tissue, and I’ve watched the horror of someone with a concussion who needs to be off the ice.

I’ve also seen players who just aren’t as good as others.

Josh Leivo does not look injured to me. I don’t have access to his medical records, but on the subject of access, he was kept away from the media today after he practiced with the Leafs.

He is not waiver exempt. He has a low salary, and Mika Zibanejad is just the latest in a long string of injuries that are causing teams to snatch anyone off of waivers who might fill a need. The Rangers took Matt Puempel from the Senators today.

This designation of Injured Non-Roster has a specific definition in the CBA. This is the entire definition of Injured Reserve List/Injured Non-Roster:

(a) The Injured Reserve List is a category of the Reserve List. A Club may place a Player on the Injured Reserve List only if such Player is reasonably expected to be injured, ill or disabled and unable to perform his duties as a hockey Player for a minimum of seven (7) days from the onset of such injury, illness or disability. A Player who finishes an NHL Season on the Injured Reserve List and continues to be disabled and unable to perform his duties as a hockey Player by reason of the same injury at the time he reports to the Club's Training Camp in the next League Year, will again be eligible to be placed on the Club's Injured Reserve List. For any other Player who fails the Club's initial physical examination in any League Year, or is injured, ill or disabled while not on the Club's Active Roster, he shall not be eligible for, and may not be placed on, Injured Reserve, but instead shall be eligible to be, and may be designated as, Injured Non-Roster.

“For any Player who fails the Club’s initial physical examination ... or is injured, ill or disabled while not on the Club’s Active Roster.”

This covers everyone from Joffrey Lupul and Stephane Robidas to, it appears, Josh Leivo. He took part in training camp, however, and played in one pre-season game. He just played five AHL games and will continue to practice with the team. How long can a training camp injury or a failed physical last?

(e) Any determination that a Player is eligible to be placed on the Injured Reserve List, or designated as Injured Non-Roster, shall be made by the Club's physician in accordance with the Club's medical standards and documented by a verification signed by the Club physician and countersigned by a Club executive in the forms attached to this Agreement as Exhibit 28 (which shall also be signed by the Player) and 28-A, respectively. Such forms must be received by Central Registry and sent to the NHLPA and the Player, all in accordance with Exhibit 3, prior to the Player being added to the Injured Reserve List or designated as Injured Non-Roster, as applicable.

(f) The Commissioner may take whatever steps he deems necessary to investigate the circumstances under which a Player is: (i) placed, or remains, on the Injured Reserve List, or (ii) designated Injured Non-Roster. If the Commissioner has reason to believe that the Injured Reserve List or Injured Non-Roster status has not been utilized properly by the involved Club or otherwise Circumvents any provision of this Agreement, or if he determines that the Club has used the Injured Reserve and/or Injured Non-Roster designations to evade the Active Roster limit, he may take such disciplinary action against the Club as he deems appropriate.

So it’s up to the same group of people, the Leafs, the doctors, and the Commissioner of the league who ended up in front of an arbiter arguing with Jared Cowen over his status as injured or not when the Leafs bought him out. That remains unresolved at this time, and leaves the Leafs with an uncertain cap situation, and contract count right now.

It seems that as long as a player goes along, they are as injured as a team says they are. And it’s not like there aren’t legitimate grey areas. Lupul’s entire last few years have been a grey area between healthy and not.

Meanwhile Leivo will sit with the currently unpopular Martin Marincin, the insurance defender Frank Corrado and the insurance forward Peter Holland, and the Leafs will have a roster of 24 men in every practice. None of them are getting any better by not playing, but I’m not convinced they are all getting worse just sitting there.

Meanwhile, the Leafs need to make a decision and cut someone.