TORONTO- In hindsight, Joe Colborne has come to realize that the short-term gain of playing through an injury isn’t always the best decision.
After the Toronto Marlies wrapped up their Calder Cup run last June, Colborne admitted that he had played for six months with at least two torn ligaments in his left wrist that needed to be surgically repaired.
He was advised by team personnel that shutting it down in December when the injury originally occurred was an option, however he declined and chose to play the remainder of the year at far less than 100 percent. Using cortisone to relieve the pain from the damaged ligaments, Colborne eventually broke a bone in the same wrist and didn’t know until after he had his operation in late June.
Unable to hold his stick properly, shoot with confidence or even win a face off, the sport became a serious challenge while he was hurt and he didn’t serve much use offensively as he went 30 games without a goal and recorded just 14 points in his final 40 games.
“Looking back now it may have been a smarter idea for my career to suck it up and say I’ll miss the rest of the year and get the surgery done so I could come back 100-percent healthy,” said Colborne. “I learned a lot from the playoff run and even though it may have postponed getting better from surgery for a couple months, it’s something that I’ll take in to account.”
Colborne opened last season with 18 points in his first nine games, but his production drastically tailed off in late December and to this day he has been working to get back to the type of player he was prior to injury. And, it hasn’t been easy.
He spent all summer back home in Calgary rehabbing his wrist and even up until September, when he joined the Marlies for training camp, he was seen icing it each time he came off the ice.
“It’s fine (now),” said Colborne. “The wrist has come so far, even in the last couple months. It’s certainly in a spot where I feel comfortable, I can shoot the puck, take draws. (But) we still do different things to take care of it, still strengthening it.”
Colborne was supposedly 100-percent healthy to start this season, but his play didn’t necessarily show it as he had just one goal and six points in his first 20 games.
In November Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins benched Colborne for a game, however the potential future centre for the Leafs still couldn’t get his offence going and when the NHL season started in January, he was nowhere to be found on the Leafs radar and wasn’t invited to training camp.
“It sucked,” is how Colborne put it when asked about being looked over for camp.
One full calendar year later, Colborne is finally starting to contribute the way a first-round selection is supposed to.
In his last 13 games the 6-foot-5 213-pounder has produced four goals and 15 points. Perhaps more importantly though, he’s altered his skating technique, which has allowed him to control and protect the puck the way a man of his size should.
“He’s a guy that skates extremely upright and we’ve challenged him to get down lower, which will make him stronger,” said Eakins.
“I’ve been feeling great,” said Colborne after registering two points against the Chicago Wolves last Saturday. “Ever since Christmas I’ve taken my game to a new level, only a couple periods I’ve been off. I’ve been working on consistency and again you get one or two bounces your way and you start to feel good.”
As difficult as it was for Colborne to repair himself physically, the mental block from being limited eventually got to the 22-year-old as well and on more than one occasion he found himself in Eakins’ office searching for answers on how to regain what he had lost.
“I always talk to these guys about climbing mountains and it’s not just a chair lift all the way to the top,” said Eakins. “You will fall and there will be valleys. And it’s not just straight up, you’re going to have hiccups along the way. But he’s a dedicated guy.”
It’s been 13 months since Colborne damaged his wrist, and while some admire the way he chose to continue on, shutting it down would have likely been better for the long-term gain in his career. Regardless, Colborne takes the situation for what it is and hopes that with two working hands he’ll catch the eye of Leafs management before this season is through.
“It was a learning experience for sure.”
Colborne currently has six goals and 25 points in 41 games and has a chance to add to that on Tuesday when the Marlies face the Hamilton Bulldogs.
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