TORONTO– Joe Colborne has never experienced the type of production drought that lingers for this long.
When the 22-year-old scored early in the third period of a Game 1 victory against the Oklahoma City Barons, it was his first goal in 31 games dating back to the regular season.
“It was a big weight off my shoulders,” said a relieved Colborne about finally scoring.”It’s something I’ve never been through before. It was a bunch of things combined and it’s not fun. What got me through it was that we were still winning. If we were losing you probably would have seen eight or nine broken sticks after hitting posts.”
“He was doing the best he could but that was weighing on him,” added Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins. “I kicked him in the ass, encouraged him, sat down with him and talked about his mental mindset and then you get to a point where he’s gotta get through this partly on his own too.”
The last time Colborne scored was on February 17th, in a victory against the Rockford IceHogs, but his streak of bad luck goes well past the 31 games between goals.
The Calgary native started the season with 10 goals in his first 12 games and had 19 points in 13 contests when the parent club Toronto Maple Leafs summoned him on November 19th.
Six games in the NHL went well for the Colborne, recording four points, but when he returned to the Marlies his production started to decline.
In his first 13 games back with the Marlies, Colborne scored only once.
Despite six multi-point games in his his first 10 outings, he recorded just two more all season. His shot production drastically declined upon return and at one point he went minus-11 in a 12 game span near the end of the season.
In total he had just six goals in the final 51 games of the season and finished the year with just 39 points in 65 games.
“I focused on D-Zone and starting to be more physical. Those parts of my game I felt really good with,” said Colborne about how he was trying to impact the game despite not scoring any goals. “I just hope it’s one of those things where ya get one or two and you get confidence back. It was a tough couple of months.”
Colborne acknowledges that there is something else also playing a part but it won’t be discussed while the Marlies continue their battle in the Western Conference Finals.
“There’s some other factors that I can’t really talk about that are coming into play and you’ll probably find out at the end of the year,” said Colborne when asked what was affecting his game so much.
Colborne’s early season production had him selected for this year’s AHL all-star game, which took place in January. However, Colborne did not participate and it wasn’t disclosed as to why although it was believed to be his wrist.
He did say whatever was bothering him sometimes had him uncomfortable taking shots and passing the puck more than he wanted to.
Currently, Colborne is playing with a finger injury that doesn’t want to heal and he missed two games in the second round against the Abbotsford Heat because of it.
While the finger injury is visible from the ice pack and wrap used after every game, other injuries the Leafs’ prospect has had to deal with in his first full season in Toronto haven’t been made clear yet. And whatever he’s had to deal with seems to have affected his output.
The Marlies will host the Barons on Wednesday for Game 4 of the West Finals and Colborne will be in the line up.