Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Timothy Liljegren looks for an outlet pass from behind his net
Photo credit: Claus Andersen

Sheldon Keefe identifies one defenseman that just hasn't been good enough

Published January 23, 2024 at 0:15

Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe has called out some of his players this season and rightfully so due to their play. One of Toronto's latest players to be called out by the head coach is Swedish defenseman Timothy Liljegren.

"A guy we talk about daily in terms of needing & wanting more out of... We got to help him through it... need Lily to skate, move pucks well & get pucks to the net, defend the rush well & I don't think he's done that to the level that we expect or have seen."

In Liljegren's fifth season with the Maple Leafs and third full NHL season, the 2017 first round pick has been trending in the right direction, but is expected to take parts of his game to the next level. With the struggling T.J. Brodie and Mark Giordano, Keefe needs more from Liljegren on a nightly basis.

There are some fans that are in agreement with Keefe, and expect more out of Liljegren, including more consistency. Others are noticing the positives that Liljegren has managed to achieve since coming back from a tough high-ankle sprain injury.

He is blocking more shots than the NHL's all-time shot blocking leader Mark Giordano, with Liljegren having the most blocked shots by a Maple Leaf since 2012-2013. He is drawing penalties and limiting his own with the best differential by a Leafs defenseman since 2009-2010. He is also being utilized in the offensive zone to try and get more offense out of him, having the highest percentage of offensive zone starts by a Leafs defenseman since 2007-2008.

It's his play with the puck that needs to improve. Making cleaner zone exits and better passes while shooting the puck more. With Liljegren in a contract season, and plenty of hockey to go, Keefe has to put more onto Liljegren's plate to see if he can sink or swim. At this stage of his career, the Leafs' coaching staff and management team need to know what he is, whether that be a depth defenseman, a top-4 defenseman or a future top pairing defenseman. The only way to determine that is to put him in those positions and evaluate his performances. So far, Keefe wants more. Hopefully Liljegren has more to give.
January 23   |   908 answers
Sheldon Keefe identifies one defenseman that just hasn't been good enough

Do you think Timothy Liljegren will be a top-4 defenseman on this team?

He already is.23626 %
No, keep him on the 3rd pairing.25928.5 %
He will crack the top-4 eventually30633.7 %
Package him for a legit top-4 dman!10711.8 %
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