Sheldon Keefe and the Leafs Explain Decision Behind Benching A Certain Defenseman

Elliot Ben Jacob
March 11, 2024  (10:48)

Toronto Maple Leafs' Timothy Liljegren.
Photo credit: Sportsnet

Big Changes in the Maple Leafs Lineup Before Clash with Canadiens

The Toronto Maple Leafs have announced big changes to their lineup for the upcoming game against the Montreal Canadiens, revealing four revamped forward lines.
Among the changes, the decision to bench Simon Benoit in favor of Timothy Liljegren's inclusion in the defensive lineup is definitely a surprising move.

Keefe's Strategy: Liljegren Over Benoit

Sheldon Keefe, the head coach, shared his rationale behind choosing Liljegren for the matchup, highlighting the need for a second right-shot defenseman. While acknowledging the difficulty of sidelining Benoit, especially for a game in Montreal, Keefe expressed this lineup adjustment as a big opportunity for Liljegren.
The coach's strategy aims to explore Liljegren's pairing with Edmundson and to solidify his role post-trade deadline, emphasizing the composition of the team.
"Given our current roster, we see Liljegren's right-handed shot as essential. Pairing him with Edmundson is something we're keen to test out. It's a pivotal moment for Liljegren's growth, and we're committed to integrating him effectively. Despite the tough call to not play Benoit tonight, this decision is driven by our team's immediate needs."

Fan and Coach Favorite Benoit vs. Liljegren

Simon Benoit, in his debut season with the Leafs, has garnered admiration from both fans and the coaching staff. In contrast, Liljegren faces increasing pressure due to his recent performances, with his position in the lineup at risk despite the team's requirement for his right-handed shot.

Keefe's words suggest a commitment to providing Liljegren with every chance to improve and secure his place for the playoffs. However, as the postseason draws near, it falls upon Liljegren to capitalize on this opportunity and solidify his spot for the playoff's opening game. Failure to do so may see Benoit ready to step in and fill the void.