More on Joe Colborne


Joe Colborne
pic via Jennifer Kuhn


Although we figured Joe Colborne might be a throw-in piece for a John Michael Liles trade, the Flames instead acquired the former first rounder for a conditional fourth round pick instead.

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Colborne ticks all the boxes for the Flames. A 6’5" centerman, the 23 year old is a Calgary native who played in the AJHL before going off to college for the University of Denver, where he scored 31 and 41 points in his freshman and sophomore seasons.. Originally picked by Weisbrod and the Bruins 16th overall in 2008, he was then was acquired by Burke in a trade involving Tomas Kaberle. Appropriately, I chose Colborne as a key comparable to Mark Jankowski back when the Flames chose the latter 21st overall.

Although Colborne is a big boy, he’s not a guy who will bang bodies or drop the gloves. His game is often described as patient, methodical and pass-first. Others say he lacks intensity, which is likely why his stock has fallen since his draft year. Although his output in college was above average, Colborne has yet to really manage noteworthy numbers as a pro player.

Part of that may be due to a strange wrist injury he endured for most of the 2011-12. He began the year leading the Marlies with 19 points in 11 games, but trailed off drastically in January, eventually finishing with 16 goals and 23 assists in 61 contests. I was revealed that summer that Colborne had torn ligaments and broken bone in his wrist which required rehab and surgery. Corey Pronman, who ranked Colborne as the Leafs second best prospect at the time, describes the drop-off here:

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Colborne had easily one of the weirdest seasons of any drafted prospect this year. In the early months, he was tearing up the AHL like it was nobody’s business, and then he fell off dramatically for a large portion of the season. Normally, this production variance can be the cause of statistical randomness, but his play and how he looked to scouts went from an extreme high to an extreme low, which is quite unusual. This may have been because of a wrist injury that he disclosed and had surgery for at the end of the season.

In 2012-13, Colborne finished second on the Marlies in scoring with 14 goals and 42 points in 62 games, which is good but doesn’t exactly scream future NHL point-getter. This is likely why the Leafs decided to move on from the player: Colborne isn’t a crash and bang grinder, but he’s not yet at the level where you can expect him to anchor a scoring line in the NHL. He’s also waiver eligible and the cap-strapped Leafs couldn’t leave handing around the NHL roster in hopes he’d eventually work his way up the depth chart. So when they decided he wasn’t going to be a top-6 player, his fate was in that org was sealed.

For the Flames organization, this is another arrow in the quiver. Although there’s no guarantee that Colborne will turn out to be anything above replacement level, Calgary’s depth chart down the middle has gone from Backlund-Stajan-Horak-Reinhart to Backlund-Stajan-Monahan-Knighty-Colborne-Horak-Reinhart in the space of a few months and at minimal expense. The tea, doesn’t need all of those guys to turn out, but with each new body they increase the chances that at least one of them will. 

As mentioned, Colborne will be exposed to waivers should he be demoted to the AHL, so he’s on the roster to stay. That likely means a few of the remaining hopefuls – Ben Street, Roman Horak – are destined for re-assignment today or tomorrow. This probably also means Horak will shift to wing permanently. The center ice position is becoming increasingly crowded at the minor league and bottom-6 NHL levels (allthe above names plus Markus Granlund) so his best bet at this point would be shifting to right wing, a position he had some success in last year with the Heat.

As for Colborne, he slots in on the Flames third or fourth line to start the year despite his less than ideal temperament for conventional bottom-6 roles. I personally think the true goal in building a roster would be to construct four scoring lines and that giving up a potential middle-tier offensive centerman because he can’t enthusiastically hurt people is ridiculous, but that’s just me. Probably the best role for Colborne would be as a relatively sheltered third liner with capable line mates. Some potential combinations:

  • Baertschi – Colborne – Jones
  • Galiardi – Colborne – Hudler
  • Baertschi – Colborne – Stempniak

Finally, the Colborne addition makes things a little crowded for Sean Monahan, which is actually good news. It creates an environment where the team doesn’t feel obligated to keep the kid around the rest of the season – one where he’ll have to legitimately outplay one of Backlund, Stajan or Colborne to stick around long-term. If he does that, then the kid probably belongs in the show. If not, it’s back to juniors where he can tear it up and play in the WJ championships. Also, it means we won’t have to Hartley try to convert TJ Galiardi to a pivot.

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 Overall, I like the move a lot. The price was minimal and the player has upside. He may never manage to live up to his draft pedigree, but even if Colborne becomes at capable bottom-6 centerman, he has a lot of useful years ahead of him.

More on Colborne

  • While I like the price of the move, it still gives me fear that Flames MGMT want to “go for it” sooner rather than later. And what if Colborne clicks enough that he gets 20-30-50 and helps the team to a 9th place finish?

    No bueno. Also, once he gets 9g and 34 points, time to bench him. Give as little help as possible to the Leafs.

    • piscera.infada

      It is 10g, 35 points AND the Flames have to make the playoffs, so that 4th round pick may as well be chisled in stone at this point.

      I REALLY like the move, I know some people are not of the mind that trading a draft pick during a rebuild makes sense. But trading a DEPTH draft pick for a potential top 6 player who is still considered a prospect and is only 23 is still rebuilding in my books.

      The kid checks a lot of boxes, big, good skater, has scored well in the past up to that freak injury, and heck after it still scored at a better pace than most of our prospects on the Heat I believe as well.

      Like Kent mentioned, this move also helps with a few other problems. Before Colborne, Monahan had to only beat out other guys who are not centers, this means it makes it tougher on Monahan to make the team which means he doesn’t have to be rushed because of our crappy center depth but if he does truly perform well, he’s made the team on Merit and not draft position. As well it keeps guys like Galliardi at their natural wing positions rather then trying to convert them to Centers which usually doesn’t work out so well.

      As well, it gives us more assests, and thats not a bad thing, if we need to throw in an assest or two to make a deal, we have more.

        • SoCalFlamesFan

          Well as Kent said in the article, Horak isn’t even being used at Center exclusively, he has been used as a RWer as well, which kinda shows how the Flames/Heat feel about his center skills. But yes, I guess you could consider that a battle.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I posted the same thought in the last Colborne article. The benefit from having too many centers on the team is that the Flames may have young talent to trade now. This might serve to set up another cap relief trade to a team that needs to give up a quality RFA and wants a quality prospect in return.

  • Reidja

    This is an A+ move. Whether or not Colborne pans out, the organization should get a lot of credit for pulling this one off, much like the Knight trade. Every move like this gets me a little more excited to be a Flames fan.

  • Michael

    I’m not sure why the Leafs are giving up on Colborne and his $600K salary, but this is a smart, low risk good return potential trade for the Flames. Colborne is in the right age group (23), has great size, character, hockey IQ, decent scoring potential and fills a real need down the middle.

    Stajan had a decent year, but he is hardly a top six center on any other club, Backlund is currently a valuable third line guy who can drive the play, but is injury prone and hasn’t found his NHL scoring touch,
    why risk Monahan’s development?, Knight isn’t NHL ready, leaving a bunch of replacement parts like Horak and Street. This is a big opportunity for Colborne to climb into a top six role. This move has Burke all over it and we didn’t have to take on a silly contract.
    For once, a real plus for the front office

  • BurningSensation

    I think it is worth mentioning again that Feaster has completely rebuilt the center position prospect system, and done so rather cheaply.

    The standard line is that it is impossible to find centers in the NHL available for trade, but Feaster picked up Knight and Colburne without parting with a pick in the top three rounds.

    Seriously, that is amazing stuff. Only Jim Nill in Dallas (adding Seguin, Peverley and Horcoff) could be said to have done better rebuilding his teams pivots and he had to part with some high end assets and a borderline all-star in Eriksson to do it.

    I was all in favour of eating Liles contract in the hopes of landing a decent prospect and a pick, but to get Colburne for a 4th?


    • SoCalFlamesFan

      While I agree that Feaster and co. have done a good job adding middling to bottom centre depth, I’d hesitate to compare Knight and Colburne to Seguin, Peverley and Horcoff.

      • BurningSensation

        It’s apples and oranges. Dallas rebuilt their active roster replacing their three top centers (moving Jamie Benn back to the wing).

        Calgary has rebuilt their prospect pipeline adding; Monahan, Knight, and now Colburne in just the last couple of months.

        In both cases the Gms deserve massive credit for adding talent at the most difficult position to find any.

  • SoCalFlamesFan

    I’m not as convinced of this guy Colberne. He has the potential to be a “Joe Thorton” according to Pronman but has not shown anything dominant since pre Christmas ’11!!

    He seems to have great everything and vision to boot, and in every clip I could find looks great away from the puck but is there some deeper problem … is he going to be another Howse or Ryder?

    Here’s to living up to hype and potential.

    • SoCalFlamesFan

      He’s already better than Howse. He is, at the absolute worst, a legitimate AHL player and replacement level NHLer. I’d say a better comparable is Greg Nemisz (also worse) or Ben Street.

      • SoCalFlamesFan

        A 23year old AHL player is not worth a draft pick IMO.
        What concerns me is Howse and Ryder (the wee one) both had a lack of heart or a professional mentality. The falloff in production seems to me to be the tell tale signs of a player not willing to do what is necessary to be a regular in the NHL and wants to build houses (not that building houses is a bad thing just not part of a NHL dedication.) This smells a little like getting the Leafs cast-offs.

        • piscera.infada

          I think you miss the point of rebuilding. Adding young players with potential upside for a low price is something this team should be jumping all over – every time. You have absolutely no guarantee a 4th round pick makes it, let alone becomes an impact player. At least with a trade like this you get a player who’s pushing for an NHL roster spot, and you see what you have in him. If he works out – great (maybe the trade re-energizes him, if that’s your problem), if he doesn’t you’ve essentially just played the odds on a fourth round pick.

          The fact that he’s an ex-Leaf, an ex-Canuck, or an ex-Hamilton Tigercat is irrelevant. You’re adding a legitimate prospect – keeping in line with rebuilding your prospect depth.

  • SoCalFlamesFan

    Leafs Nation agrees this is a good deal for the Flames. If it is true that Colbourne did recover from his injury and is finally on track with his development, then he might be better for the flames than an Ex-Hamilton Tigercat.