So this really isn’t any surprise but here it is anyway, Timothy Liljegren has been recalled from the Marlies.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) February 7, 2020
Liljegren is by far the best right shooting option available in the organization, as well as the top defensive prospect of those remaining on the Marlies, and everything about him coming up makes sense. Not a whole lot of analysis needed. So let’s just jump wildly into the speculation.
Does Liljegren play tonight?
This is probably not the straight forward “YES!!!” answer we want it to be, but in reality it still makes sense. The Leafs haven’t practiced since the Ceci injury, so it’s not like pairing have been tested with Marincin filling a spot in lineup, and Liljegren has played more recently than Marincin, so potentially he’s ready to go. Now, that doesn’t mean we won’t see Marincin tonight, but I’d also bet that if they were looking to split the duties over the next two nights, they’d prefer to use Liljegren at home against the Ducks and Marincin on the road, so they can shelter Liljegren’s matchups more and also give him the worse team to face.
What are the pairings going to look like?
At this point everything is up in the air. Muzzin and Holl hasn’t looked great because a lot of that initial first quarter of the season shine is wearing off Holl. Dermott and Barrie doesn’t inspire a huge amount of confidence either, and it’s debatable if the Leafs really want to go with their two rookies as the bottom pairing despite Sandin and Liljegren playing together frequently. We could see the rare lineup blender on the blueline, and as such I’d suggest…
That might not be optimal, but it’s what I’d expect to see, with Dermott and Barrie being also taking a number of shifts together, likely on defensive zone starts.
Wait, what was that about Ceci?
Yeah, it’s going to be a month of guaranteed Ceci-less Leafs hockey. The thing with that is, that largely takes him off the table for the trade deadline, unless a team wants to acquire salary to get to the cap floor or signs point to him recovering quickly. It also means they aren’t committing to him being LTIR for the rest of the season, so that’s not guaranteed money to spend. There’s plenty of nuances to this, and probably exploring the Leafs cap situation as a whole heading into the deadline makes sense rather than looking at it on a microlevel, but I’m losing my main point which was…
One month of Ceci-less hockey. Liljegren is going to get a good look (assuming Josh Manson doesn’t stay behind in Toronto after the game tonight). With Ceci and Rielly out, the Leafs blueline doesn’t look ideal, but honestly, I’d rather see the kids play and find out whether we are hopeful for next season anyway. So I guess sometimes injuries can be a blessing in disguise, at least for the people who aren’t actually injured. And of course, we wish Ceci the fullest of recoveries.