There may be one specific reason why Holl has remained in the Leafs' lineup over Liljegren

Published April 9, 2022 at 12:05
BY MIKE ARMENTI
There is a big divide between what Leafs fans see and what Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe sees, especially when it comes to the defense pairings. The fact that Justin Holl has remained in the lineup over Timothy Liljegren, who has been the far superior player, especially since Mark Giordano came in, has been frustrating for Leafs fans.

Granted, everyone is either an arm chair coach or an arm chair GM these days, but Holl's presence in the lineup despite being arguably the Leafs' weakest defenseman remains a bit of a head scratcher. Does he have some sort of dirt on Keefe that he's threatening to expose?? Well, the truth is likely something far more simple.

Justin Holl is one of the Leafs' most trusted penalty killing defensemen, which is likely the biggest reason why he's remained in the lineup, despite the number of goals against he's been on the ice for.

If I told you that Holl is second among Leafs' defensemen in +/- rating with a +14, would you believe me? Because it's true, surprisingly. Only T.J. Brodie has a better +/- rating on the team at +20. I'd venture to guess that a lot of Holl's success has come from his time alongside Brodie on the team's second pair.


I'd imagine that Holl's numbers are better than what the eye test might suggest, but I'd argue that Liljegren is the superior defenseman, even as a rookie, and I don't believe it's particularly close. If Holl remains in the lineup specifically because of his role on PK1, that's actually quite disappointing, considering that the Leafs also have Ilya Lyubushkin, T.J. Brodie, Jake Muzzin and Mark Giordano to lean on when down a man.

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