Liljegren, Eeyore & Next Year’s Stanley Cup

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at Timothy Liljegren’s goal for the coming season after signing his new two-year contract extension. Although Liljegren needs to mature further as an NHL defenseman, he shows great potential.

Related: The Maple Leafs’ Puzzling Reluctance to Re-Sign Jack Campbell

I’ll also look at the betting odds that project next season’s Stanley Cup winners. Don’t tell Maple Leafs’ fans who, after years of misery, know better. But, after the Stanley Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche, Toronto is considered to be the second-best bet for smart money. We know better – yet?

Item One: Timothy Liljegren Knows His Own Goals

On Monday it was announced that the Maple Leafs have re-signed 23-year-old defenseman Timothy Liljegren to a two-year contract at $1.4 million per season. For the (currently) third-pairing defenseman, that’s a nice bridge deal and allows him a couple more seasons to show the kind of defenseman he could become. 

Timothy Liljegren, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Last season, Liljegren was a sometimes healthy scratch who played a total of 61 games for the team. In those games, at his best, he showed an ability to move the puck while also scoring five goals and adding 18 assists (for 23 points).

In an interview in the Toronto Sun yesterday, Liljegren talked about his signing and his plans going forward. One thing he spoke about was working to improve on the physical side of the game during the upcoming 2022-23 regular season. By Liljegren’s own admission, he struggled in that physical aspect of the game. He admitted that, during the postseason, that aspect becomes particularly crucial.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Liljegren Is the Perfect Replacement for Holl

He spoke about his first-hand learning and noted that, during the playoffs, “I didn’t play as good as I did during the regular season.” (from “Two-year contract in his pocket, Liljegren looks to improve physical side of his game with the Maple Leafs,” Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun, 27/06/2022).

Liljegren added that the postseason “was a learning experience for me. It makes you hungrier for next year, for sure. (The playoffs are) faster. It’s more physical. That’s a part of my game where I feel like I can improve, especially around the boards, boxing people out.” 

Timothy Liljegren Toronto Marlies
Timothy Liljegren, with the Toronto Marlies (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The 2021-22 regular season was a step forward in Liljegren’s development. Two weeks ago in a post where we ranked the Maple Leafs’ defense, it was apparent that at the age of 23 Liljegren needs more time to develop. That said, a great number of Maple Leafs’ fans believe he’ll one day become a top-pairing defenseman in the NHL. His new contract will allow him time to get there.

Item Two: Fans Know the Maple Leafs’ Can’t Win; But, If You’re a Betting Person

It’s come to the place where the feelings of many Maple Leafs’ fans are best expressed in the quote from Winnie The Pooh’s Eeyore. Eeyore seemed to channel the feelings of many Maple Leafs’ faithful when he said “No gaiety, no song and dance, no “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush.” But don’t worry about me, Pooh. Go and enjoy yourself. I’ll stay here and be miserable, with no presents, no cake, no candles.”

Related: Would Maple Leafs Fans Make Deal with the Devil to Win Stanley Cup?

The betting world thinks differently. Professional money seems to have more faith in the Maple Leafs’ talent and abilities than most fans. Although it’s personally not my way, I get it. From what I see shared in the comment sections of the posts I write, it’s hard not to get caught in the quicksand of the past sucking you into discouragement. 

But for non-Maple Leafs’ fans and those who follow the money, the odds suggest that Toronto is a good team to bet on. In fact, the betting markets have listed the Maple Leafs as the team with the second-best odds in the NHL of winning it all. First, of course, is Nazem Kadri and the Colorado Avalanche.

Colorado Avalanche Celebrate
Nazem Kadri, Josh Manson, Samuel Girard and Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche celebrate Manson’s game-winning goal against the St. Louis Blues in Game One of the Second Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Specifically, the Maple Leafs are currently listed at +900 odds. That means that a $100 bet would return you a payout of $1,000 ($900 in profit). But, Maple Leafs’ fans – after watching their team refuse to win a single postseason round since 2004 – know better than to waste their money betting on the team they love.

After the Avalanche, these fans might want to go with either this season’s runner-up Tampa Bay Lightning or the President’s Trophy-winning-Florida Panthers. The Atlantic Division includes three of the four best shots for next season’s Stanley Cup. 

From Oddsshark, here are the best odds for next season’s Stanley Cup.

  • Colorado Avalanche +450
  • Toronto Maple Leafs +900
  • Florida Panthers +1000
  • Tampa Bay Lightning +1000
  • Carolina Hurricanes +1200
  • Edmonton Oilers +1200

For anyone interested in taking a flyer, there’s always the Seattle Kraken (at +15000) or the Arizona Coyotes (at +40000).

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Don’t tell this to some Toronto fans; but, according to outsiders who don’t care so much about the team, when you take away the love/hate emotional aspect of being a fan and get down to the pure logic of the situation, the dollars and cents of it all suggest the Maple Leafs are one of the top teams in the NHL.

What’s next for the Maple Leafs is putting together a team that will contest for that Stanley Cup. Personally, and I promise I’m not trying to convince anyone to think like I do, but I look forward to every aspect of the upcoming season.

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For me, it starts with watching the group work to build a team that’s competitive. Then, it’s about overcoming problems on and off the ice. With this team, I love trying to figure out how general manager Kyle Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe will try to fix what’s broken.

I also love seeing the new kids on the block work into the lineup and learn to overcome failure with success. I love teamwork. I love how tight this group of players is. For me, this is so much fun.

I also love hanging out with my friend Greg over chicken wings and a good craft beer watching teams battle it out in overtime.

Hockey is a really, really exciting game. Sorry Eeyore, you can’t make me miserable about the Maple Leafs.