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Will the Leafs Make a Move Before the Trade Deadline Amidst Blue Line Adversity?

The Toronto Maple Leafs blue line has been through the wringer this season, battling injuries, illnesses, and suspensions. The constant shuffle of players has made it tough to nail down a consistent group, with changes happening almost every game.

Toronto Maple Leafs Blue Line Adversity

Liljegren’s Day-to-Day Status and Giordano’s Return

Timothy Liljegren, absent from practice on February 26th, is currently listed as day-to-day with an unspecific injury. His absence comes at a critical time, as he saw his average time on ice significantly increase during Morgan Rielly‘s recent five-game suspension. Paired with veteran T.J. Brodie, Liljegren has been a key contributor, collecting seven assists during the Maple Leafs’ impressive seven-game win streak.

However, this has created an opportunity for veteran defenseman Mark Giordano, who is set to return to the lineup after missing the team’s four-game road trip due to the sudden passing of his father, Paul Giordano.

Rielly and Lagesson Return to Lineup

With the return of Rielly and Lagesson, the defensive core welcomes back added depth and experience to the blue line. They replaced the young Lajoie and Rifai pairing, bringing stability and veteran presence back into the lineup. Despite initial nerves about rejoining the team after their five-game winning streak, Rielly’s comeback didn’t slow them down; if anything, it seemed to energize them even more.

Keefe’s Defensive Pairings

The Leafs’ defensive pairings have shown promise, with guys showing chemistry during a time when it’s needed most. Brodie and Liljegren have formed an imposing duo, benefiting from their natural left-right dynamic. Liljegren stepped up in Morgan Rielly’s absence, while Brodie’s comfort on his natural side has enhanced their performance, making them arguably one of the best pairs in the league right now.

Gritty Defensive Duo

Benoit and McCabe have also impressed, showcasing increased ice time and physicality. Their aggressive style of play and smart puck handling have complemented each other well. Sheldon Keefe lauded McCabe’s reliability, stating, “Very little has gone poorly when he’s out there.”

Their gritty performances have breathed life and energy into the team, embodying the toughness and resilience of old-school hockey. Benoit and McCabe have become underdogs for the Leafs, earning respect for their hard-nosed approach to the game. The pair particularly excelled in filling the gap left by Rielly’s suspension. They’ve shown their grit by taking on more ice time, consistently blocking shots, delivering hard hits every game, and standing up for their teammates on the ice. McCabe has stepped up, adding his name to the scoring sheet, demonstrating offensive ability alongside defensive contributions.

Strengths, Concerns, and Trade Deadline Decisions

As the trade deadline edges closer, the Leafs stand at a crucial juncture. Lagesson and Benoit have been pleasant surprises, adding grit to the blue line despite starting the season on waivers. However, the toll of injuries and the demanding season raises concerns about the team’s defensive depth, especially as they prepare for the playoffs.

As the trade deadline approaches, the Leafs must make a crucial choice: should they strengthen their defensive depth with new acquisitions, or should they rely on the current group for the postseason? It’s a dilemma that requires careful thought, weighing the potential advantages of reinforcement against the risk of upsetting the team’s chemistry and cohesion.

In pursuit of defensive reinforcements, potential trade targets such as Chris Tanev, Noah Hanifin, Jakob Chychrun, and others loom large as intriguing options. A trade for a defenseman would bring stability and experience to the Leafs, crucial for a deep playoff run and adding valuable depth to the team.

As March 8th looms, all eyes are on the Leafs’ front office. Their decision whether to trade for a defenseman will serve as an indicator of their confidence in the current defensive core. Despite facing hurdles throughout the season, this deadline presents an opportunity to reinforce their faith in the team’s ability to succeed in the postseason.

Main Photo: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports


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