Leafs defenseman Timothy Liljegren
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Timothy Liljegren makes a shocking admission about his play this season

Published February 6, 2024 at 3:30 PM

After a strong finish to his 2022-23 season, Timothy Liljegren was expected to take a much needed leap on the Toronto Maple Leafs' defensive depth chart in 2023-24. As the season has rolled along, both team and player have admitted that this season hasn't gone as planned and that's a little concerning for a player who was said to be a vital piece of the future on the blueline in Toronto at the tail-end of his contract.

Although he started the season in a third-pair role alongside Mark Giordano, Liljegren has had ample opportunities to rise to the occasion higher in the lineup and earn himself that coveted top-pairing role with Morgan Rielly. The Jake McCabe-John Klingberg pairing did not work out and T.J. Brodie was struggling mightily before the Christmas break on the top pair as well.

Even after suffering a high-ankle sprain in November in a game against Boston that forced him out of the lineup for about 6 weeks, upon his return to the lineup, Liljegren was given the chance to play side-by-side with Rielly but never took full advantage. Brodie's play ameliorated and he took back his spot on the top pair and that relegated Liljegren back to the bottom with Giordano with the odd game in the top-4. Even Simon Benoit, who was a late free agent acquisition, has surpassed him in the lineup as he currently plays on the second pair with McCabe. Unfortunately, Liljegren doesn't quite know what has happened, but he does understand that he needs to get out of this funk as soon as possible:

"I don't know. I think at every point in the season players go through a little bit of adversity and that's what I'm doing right now," Liljegren said. "I'm trying to grind through it and I'm sure I'll find my level."

"I don't feel like I'm at the top of my game. I'm struggling with it right now," Liljegren said. "I'm trying to grind through it and hopefully find my groove again."

Head coach Sheldon Keefe was absolutely irate with Liljegren and company last night after they allowed Kyle MacLean to score a goal coming out of the penalty box - with Liljegren being the last man tailing. Nevertheless, he understands there are ups and downs throughout a full regular season and still believes in his 24-year-old defenseman:

"He's taken steps over the last year and then coming into this year there's an expectation, all of a sudden," Keefe said. "[He's] not just a young guy finding his way, but for us, he's an established NHL player that's looking to take on more and that hasn't gone as well as he would expect or we would have hoped.

"But that doesn't mean he's still not doing good things, capable of good things."

The Maple Leafs desperately need Liljegren to return to his heightened play as they look to build momentum coming out of the lengthy break on what they're hoping is a successful playoff push:

"The last couple of weeks, I've been grinding through it but I'll find my usual level again."

Liljegren is averaging a career-high 19:04 ATOI, has accumulated 2 goals and 9 points through 31 games, but the ultimate goal should be finding a way back into the top-4 and providing stability for a very important position.

February 6   |   847 answers
Timothy Liljegren makes a shocking admission about his play this season

Is Timothy Liljegren a legitimate top-4 defenseman?

Yes23828.1 %
No56066.1 %
He's not even close495.8 %
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