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Sending Some Praise to Maple Leafs’ Defenseman Justin Holl

It seems a week doesn’t go by without reading a Toronto Maple Leafs fan who wants Justin Holl sent packing. What’s the real deal with him?

I get it, Justin Holl’s performance can be puzzling at times. He seems to struggle when he’s under pressure or when he feels that he needs to do too much. Under these conditions, he can make mistakes that are easily noticeable to fans.

Related: Who Is Noel Acciari: The Maple Leafs’ Other Guy?

When Partnered Well, Holl Typically Plays Well

However, when Holl is paired with a more experienced or skilled partner (for example Mark Giordano or Jake Muzzin when he wasn’t injured), he seems to be able to play more confidently. He also plays within his abilities. I would argue that, to play his best, Holl needs a certain level of support and guidance to perform. That’s a coaching thing. Holl is what he is.

Justin Holl, Maple Leafs

One thing that can be said for Holl is that he’s not afraid to use his size and physicality to his advantage. This can be an important asset for any team, especially when it comes to defending against larger and more physical opponents. He’s a hitter.

Related: Three Takeaways from Maple Leafs’ 5-3 Loss to Blackhawks

While Holl Can Be Inconsistent, He’s Also Valuable

Overall, while Holl’s performance may be inconsistent at times, it’s clear that he has qualities that make him a valuable member of the Maple Leafs. The team seems to recognize this, and he was one of the four defensemen the Maple Leafs protected in the expansion draft.

Sadly, for one group of Maple Leafs fans, that was an organizational mistake. They make that point vociferously. Often.

[As a bit of an aside, I often wonder how – if cameras were following every move and decision that some of these critics made at work, and then threw those critiques out into the world – whether the critic would think that would be fair. I’m guessing likely not, because in sports that’s OK, but not in real life. Right? But that’s a rabbit hole not everyone would want to explore. Just a thought.]

What the Maple Leafs kept in the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft in Holl was a middle-pairing, shut-down defenseman who eats up more than 20 minutes a game – all on a $2 million contract.

Holl’s shown how important he is this season. Fans shouldn’t forget that the Maple Leafs’ defense was a Gong Show early in the season. With Holl’s help, it survived (and even prospered).

Still, it was a patchwork, depleted defensive corps. Holl showed up during his period. At times he played upward of 24 minutes per game. As someone who has watched the Maple Leafs for five seasons now, this season Holl has played some of his best hockey. It came at a good time.

Still he makes mistakes. I admit it.

My Final Comment

Just this week, I read the words of two fans who asked out loud. “Are we finally going to be able to get rid of Holl?”

The answer is that there is no chance – unless he’s moved out in a trade for another defenseman the team thought might make them better. He won’t be a salary dump. Another, here’s betting that another team would pick him up.

For the Maple Leafs’ organization, the bottom line with Holl is that, when Holl plays within his abilities, he is reliable, steady, and dependable. He does have an “A” game! We’ve seen it this season.

There are very few NHL defensemen who provide so much value for so little money.

Related: 7 Cool Things About Maple Leafs’ Goalie Felix “The Cat” Potvin



  1. Ssdd

    February 21, 2023 at 12:14 am

    So Professor, who has more value, Holl at $2 million or Luke Schenn @ $850K? Schenn is consistently real value, Holl is occasionally real value, often a liability. You’re aside, critics having the camera on them every day at work, is inane & that’s being kind. It leans towards moronic but you’re a Professor, educated & all that so we’ll stick with silly. I suspect 99.99999% of Holl’s critics aren’t paid $2 million a year to ply their trade. Should the Leafs acquire some help on the backend, specifically a right shot, & it doesn’t cost them any of the current corps who from the current corps sits? I guess it comes down to Lilegren or Holl, 2 of 3 right side regulars. It sure as hell won’t be Brodie. Smart money says Holl sits. The Charon tweet, more silliness! Purely an analytical take, the eye test tells the real story. Stick to marking term papers Professor, clearly hockey commentary is not your strength.

  2. Roy Peters

    February 21, 2023 at 8:21 am

    I think that Giordano can be a steadying influence on Holl as a partner, the problem I have with the coach using Holl we have a better defenseman sitting in Timmins right now Holl should be #7 defensemen. The physicality I don’t agree with you as he quite often when body checking puts himself out of the play and falls down a lot. The coverage by him in front of the net I very rarely seem him tie up an opponent’s stick he basicly just stands there that is not defense.

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