Reasonable Expectations: Joe Colborne

Like many Calgary Flames players, Joe Colborne’s year can be split into two parts. In the first part, he was an underwhelming fourth line center. In the second part, he was shifted to the wing due to injuries (and a desire from the coaching staff to get his offensive production going), and he was quietly very effective.

Now with a new contract under his belt, what can we expect from Colborne next season?

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Season       Corsi %              Corsi Rel %        PDO          
2010-11 (1 GP) 53.6% +6.5% 116.7
2011-12 (10 GP) 41.4% -4.5% 107.2
2012-13 (5 GP) 43.8% +1.8% 96.5
2013-14 45.4% -1.3% 98.2


Colborne’s previous numbers are basically noise, given that he played just 16 games in the bigs prior to joining the Calgary Flames last season.


Colborne was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs right as training camp wrapped up, and the idea was he was going to watch from the press box for awhile to learn systems before being thrown in. Then Matt Stajan got hurt two games in and he got thrown in anyway. He didn’t play much, he didn’t play amazingly well, and it took him awhile to get his legs under him as a depth center.

Shockingly, his offensive numbers playing with Brian McGrattan, Kevin Westgarth and Tim Jackman weren’t amazing. After 43 okay-ish games where he put up 11 points, he was moved to the wing. Part of the move was because the coaching staff was curious if he could do better without the defensive responsibilities that centers have to worry about – they similarly played Roman Cervenka in this manner when he came over. But they also were curious what they had in Colborne, and if your choice is 4th line center or 3rd line winger, you get more chances to use the winger, so they made the move.

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He had 17 points in 37 games as a winger, increasing his production from 0.26 PPG to 0.46 PPG, which is pretty sizable. His underlying numbers were decent; he was dragged heavily underwater by his bottom-six mates and his time as a productive member of the offense brought his numbers up to where they were merely slightly disappointing – 45% is not great shakes on a good team, but considering team-wide the Flames were 46%, Colborne’s not that bad. But consider that he had to crawl his way up towards “not that bad” and you’ve got an idea of how his year went. He had a superb March, amassing 11 points in 17 games before injuries forced the coaching staff to shuffle the deck a bit and he was lost a bit afterwards.

Once he got out of the early-season muck, he played primarily with Sean Monahan and some combination of Mike Cammalleri, T.J. Galiardi, Jiri Hudler and Curtis Glencross. He was also shielded; he had better zone-starts than anybody but McGrattan, Westgarth, Hudler and Monahan, and only McGrattan and Westgarth got easier competition overall.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Joe Colborne’s excellence in the shootout.


If Joe Colborne’s a center, he’s probably Calgary’s worst center, lagging behind Matt Stajan, Mikael Backlund and Sean Monahan. And there’s a chance that some of the AHLers may be better bottom-six centers, too.

If Joe Colborne’s a winger, he runs less of a risk of being supplanted by a younger player or being lost in the shuffle. He’ll definitely be less sheltered in 2014-15, particularly given that the Flames will have some (or all) of Max Reinhart, Markus Granlund, Sven Baertschi and Johnny Gaudreau on the team.

He probably won’t progress too much, particularly since it’s unlikely he’ll be as sheltered. The big question is whether Colborne can avoid regressing, and whether the amazing March he had is indicative of his true skill level, or just a hot stretch brought on by luck, linemates and circumstance.

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Given a full season, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect him to produce at a 0.35 to 0.40 PPG pace, so that’d be between 30 and 33 points.

  • Parallex

    A full season as Monahan and ?(Hudler I suspect) other winger and his numbers will go up as will his responsibilities he could well be between the 3-5-40 point range.

    • SmellOfVictory

      Who’s the 3rd guy on the Colborne-Monahan line? To me, it sure looks like the right spot for Gaudreau or Sven (playing with big guys who still get some sheltered minutes) and I believe one of those 2 makes the opening night roster. And if it’s Johnny, that might have a positive impact on Colborne’s numbers.

      • The Last Big Bear

        As it stands now, except for waiver-eligibility considerations, I wouldn’t have Colborne on my opening night roster.

        Glencross – Backlund – Hudler

        Sven – Monahan – Raymond

        Gaudreau – Stajan – Jones

        Bollig – Granlund – McGrattan

          • The Last Big Bear

            Hartley gave David Jones the most difficult deployment of any forward on the Flames.

            Jones had the hardest zone starts of any forward on the team, and by Corsi measures he faced the opposition’s toughest players.

            He literally played the toughest minutes of any forward on the Flames.

            But he put up a positive Corsi Rel, finished in the offensive zone more often than he started there, drew more penalties than he took, scored at a 15 goal pace, and finished as a plus player.

            I have no idea why anyone would dump on this player.

            Put Joe Colborne in those minutes, and you may as well just play Yakkity Sax on the sound system for 15 minutes a night.

        • You have three rookies in the lineup, I doubt this will happen although I don’t disagree with the idea.. You have 2 guys playing out of position in Raymond and Bollig. Also you have McG playing ahead of Colborne, Bouma and Byron, Mcg will not play that much. Last year he played over 70 games my over under will be about 30 and I say under.

          • The Last Big Bear

            The Flames can’t fill the RW without playing someone out of position. Raymond is a vet and plays a speed game, hes the best candidate in my opinion. Hes also signed for a few years, so a hit to his production won’t hurt his career.

            Doesn’t matter which wing Bollig plays, he’s there to hit guys and chip it off the glass.

            Those 3 may be rookies, but for Sven that’s mostly a technicality, this won’t be his first rodeo. And they’ve all played in the NHL before, Granlund will be in his 4th year of pro hockey, and Johnny Gaudreau is Johnny Gaudreau. I think all 3 are ready for NHL spots unless they demonstrate otherwise.

            And if you bump one of them for a Colborne, you have the same number of rookies.

            McGrattan dresses for every game for which he’s healthy. That’s not going to change.

          • The Last Big Bear

            I don’t know how you bump a guy whose rookie season had 28 points for a guy who plays less than 6 miuntes most nights. Bollig plays on the rw, Bouma,and colborne as well.

        • The Last Big Bear

          Would it not make more sense to plug Byron or Bouma, assuming we sign him, as the 4C instead of sticking one of our more offensively gifted centre prospects between to meatheads.

          • The Last Big Bear

            Yes, but The Flames as currently made up are going to be a face punching team. That is why Mcgrattan dressed for 76 games last season and will this season too. That is why at the draft Treliving decided to trade 3rd round pick for a guy Chicago probably needed to dump off of their roster anyway. Not to mention brining Engelland, Wolf and Van Brabant on board. The majority of the roster moves made by the GM and that Hartley would dress Westgarth and Mcgrattan, makes me think we are going to see a lot of heavy weights in the line up all season long. The Flames philosophy seems to be ” If you can’t beat them. BEAT THEM!”.

          • The Last Big Bear

            That’s a matter of debate.

            I think skilled players should be started in the NHL in bottom 6 roles.

            If a player can practice on an NHL team, with NHL coaches and trainers, against NHL players, shooting on NHL goalies, and log 12-ish mins of ice time in the NHL against NHL opponents, I think that will benefit him more than riding the bus and getting a few extra minutes in the AHL.

            Young players making the jump to the NHL generally need to develop their defence primarily. Babysitting the meatheads is a great assignment to work on your defensive chops without having huge expectations placed on you. And lines arent written in stone, he wouldn’t spend ALL his icetime with Grats and Bollig. Factoring in injuries and spot duty on other lines, id expect about half of his ice time would come on “skill” lines.

            Granlund played pro in Finland for a couple seasons, played a full season in the AHL with excellent results, and has already had a cup of coffee in the NHL (in which he potted a couple goals).

            I think the next step is a depth role on the big team.

          • The Last Big Bear

            This always comes down to how you believe you build your team, if you believe in 2 top lines, a defensive line and a forth energy line then Granlund is better served playing in the AHL and McG should play all 82 games. If you believe that teams should employ a different system then you play different players. I for one see it different and believe there is room for more skilled guys throughout the line up.

          • The Last Big Bear

            ^Thats^ not necessarily how I believe a team should be built, that’s just how I assemble the pieces Burke and Treleving have collected.

            If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

            If Burke and Treliving give you meatheads…

            then you start a line brawl, and punch those lemons over and over again, until everyone gets ejected from the game.

          • The Last Big Bear

            Even if you don’t believe that is how a team should be built and that you have to make the “milkshake with ingredients given” you could adjust the amount of each ingredient and come up with something different than what is expected.

            So here are the current list of ingredients that we have up front: 8 established NHLer’s(we know what they are) Hudler, Stajan, Glenx, McG, Bollig, Backs, Raymond and DJones, 4 emerging NHLer’s(guys who played a significant amount in the NHL and we have an idea of what they bring) Monahan, Bouma, Colborne, and Byron and a number of prospects who seem ready for a good look: (here’s my list of the guys most ready)Johny, Granlund, Sven, Rhino, Ferland, Bennett, Knight and Wolf(mostly because he was not signed here to spend the whole season in the AHL). From these 20 forwards what type of team would you build. You can have 14 on the club to start the season. 2 scoring lines,1 checking line and an energy line, or something different? I see the potential for something different without having to get beat up. I would start with something like this:

            LW: Glenx, Raymond, Johnny, Colborne
            RW: Hudler, Bolling, Bouma, Jones, McG
            C: Backs, Stajan, Monahan, Bennett(his 9 games), Byron

            From that list my lines would look something like this: Glenx/Stajan/Bouma, Johnny/Backs/Jones, Colborne/Monahan/Hudler, and Raymond/Bennett/Bollig; with McG and Byron being my extra players. With this line up you could roll four lines and if need be move to a lineup of 3 skilled forward lines and an energy line rather quickly(Glenx/Bouma/Bollig would not take crap from anyone)

            After Bennett’s 9 games I would suspect that Granlund would have earned the call up.

          • The Last Big Bear

            You think the Flames should roll THREE skilled lines?

            The Flames can barely scrape together ONE skill line, and even that would be pretty feeble.

            This roster is Oilers bad. There’s not one single guy on this roster who’s a lock to score even 20 goals this year (although I’m sure somebody will).

            They can make some excellent checking lines, and they can put together a top-tier goon line. And they have some vets who can help babysit the likes of Sven, Sean, and Jonny. So that’s what I went with.

            But I can’t look at a roster of rookies, meatheads, and vets who will struggle to hit 20 goals, and think “Man, they should just roll skill line after skill line”.

          • The Last Big Bear

            I will rephrase my comments for you and say roll lines that are similar in there make up. When I was speaking of skill I was and never have said elite but the guys who I have called skilled are the closest thing we have to offer, The rookies have the potential to be skilled but only time will tell. Better that than watching McG sit on the bench for 55 minutes a night and if he is on the ice being trapped in his own zone. I would rather watch kids make a mistake.

      • Personally I would prefer to see Johnny play with a veteran center. Playing him with Monahan puts to much pressure on that line to produce and if they struggle the pressure from fans will just intensify.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Expect JG to play with absolutely everyone this season, at least for the first half of the season. Hartley will continue to juggle lines all over the place.

    Granlund and Reinhart Re both far better off having another terrific campaign in the minors than they are being turned Ito 4th liners. More,invites the better. I’ve said it before, neither one of them has to make the big club before the trade deadline when hopefully the Flames move another vet or two out. Being reliable injury call-ups and showing they’re llegit NHL players by year’s end is what matters.