Marvellous Joe Colborne

Jonathan Willis
February 18 2011 11:51PM

Hours after prospect Joe Colborne was acquired from the Boston Bruins as part of a package for defenceman Tomas Kaberle, the local media was overflowing with praise for the 6’5” centre.

Dan Robson’s piece for the Toronto Star somehow managed to work in quotes from three different sources explaining that Colborne was big, phenomenally talented, smart, a great person, a Leafs fan, and ever-so-close to the NHL:

“For guy who’s 6-5 and his weight, he handles the puck in corners very well. He can make unbelievable passes … He’ll do what needs to be done.”
“Joe is a fabulous talent. I don’t think you’ll find a better young man, either. He is a terrific teammate, works his tail off, very dedicated, very sincere. Just a really good person. Really intelligent.”
“He meets our criteria of assets who are close. Not guys that will take three years to get there. He’s not ready yet, but he’s close.”

Somewhere in that mass of praise, Robson managed to slip in the fact that Colborne has 26 points in the AHL, although he neglected to mention that it took him 55 games to reach that lofty plateau. For the record, here’s what that translates to over an 82 game schedule at the NHL level:

  • 82GP – 8G – 9A – 17PTS

Still, this is Colborne’s first professional season. Sometimes it takes a while, even for a top prospect, to adjust to the professional game. So I checked how Colborne’s season has progressed. Here are his splits from this season to date:

  • October – December: 32GP – 8G – 11A – 19PTS, -7
  • January – Present: 23GP – 4G – 3A – 7PTS, -9

It’s also not a shooting percentage issue that’s crushing Colborne; he’s fired just 92 shots in 55 games and has a very decent 13.0 shooting percentage. His minus-16 rating is also the worst of any forward on the team.

So, as a 21-year old centre in the AHL, Joe Colborne has the worst plus/minus of any forward on the team, hasn’t been able to put up points, hasn’t been able to generate many shots, and has seen his statistics get worse as the season has progressed.

Now, it is possible that there are good reasons for all of this. Perhaps Colborne has been facing tough opponents and taking defensive zone face-offs. I don’t know; I haven’t spent a lot of time watching the Providence Bruins this season. Additionally, as Pension Plan Puppets points out, his numbers at the University of Denver have not been bad. I do know that Leafs Nation needs to take a balanced approach to this player; unreasonable expectations will turn out to be more of a curse than a blessing in the long run. When an offence-first prospect can’t put up points in the AHL at the age of 21, it is a sign that expectations need to be tempered, whatever his draft pedigree.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Slava Duris
February 20 2011, 03:10PM
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Part of the story can be explained by the percentage of points that Colborne gets while on the power play. With the Denver Pioneers last season, Colborne racked up a high percentage of his points on the PP - 21 of his 41 points came on the PP (51.2 %). In the AHL this year, he has 10 PP points, which makes up 37.0 % of his total.

If you take out points scored on the power play, Colborne scored 0.51 points-per-game last season in the NCAA. This season, in the AHL, he is currently scoring at a 0.30 point-per-game.

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#2 CoryNewb
February 19 2011, 08:46AM
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Good post. This is why I get my leaf fill from the blogs and not any of the msm. Blogs don't tend to get too upbeat and crazy over stuff like this. The blogs just tend to be more cynical and wait for everything to go down in a blaze in front of them. Example: This blogs take on the leafs first 4 games of the season, compared to msm planning the parade.

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#3 Pension Plan Puppets
February 19 2011, 02:02PM
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Good post Jonathan. One thing I find with the older NCAA guys is that it seems to take them a bit longer to adjust to the grind of the professional game.

Considering he tops out as a 2C the odds of him filling a need below that are pretty high compared to reaching it.

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