TORONTO- Joe Colborne struggled with more than just scoring goals in the second half of last season.
The 22-year-old prospect of the Toronto Maple Leafs informed media at the end of last year’s AHL Calder Cup playoffs that he would need surgery in the off-season to repair his left wrist. However, he never disclosed the seriousness of the injury until Monday.
“I had a couple ligaments that were torn, the kind that affect the rotation of your wrist,” said Colborne.
Furthering complications, he also had a broken bone in the same wrist and never knew about it until he went in for surgery.
“You would think when you break a bone in your hand it would be painful but it wasn’t any worse than the ligaments,” said Colborne. “I don’t even know when it broke.”
The 6’5 213-pound centreman could not confirm if the break happened “just after Christmas,” which was when he tore at least two ligaments, or if it happened while playing with cortisone shots to help relieve the pain caused by the ligaments.
Regardless, it was his choice to play through the pain from January to June as he was advised by team medical staff that suiting up was not going to damage him long term.
Leafs’ VP of Hockey Operations, Dave Poulin, agreed that if Colborne felt fine to play and there was no chance of more damage (to the ligaments), then the organization was okay with him playing instead of being sat out.
“Providing there is no chance of further damage it does become the players’ choice, obviously with medical staff weighing in,” said Poulin through email. “From an organizational standpoint we would never put a player in a position to suffer further damage. These are not finite situations and each one is handled on its own merit. Very often a player will have to go through the experience to know whether he can play up to his standards with that specific injury.”
The biggest concerns the Calgary native dealt with, once his pain was relieved, was strength and the ability to do anything with the puck. Without having the power to hold his stick properly his production drastically dropped in January and he entered the post season on a 24-game goalless drought. From January until the end of the regular season he scored just five goals in 43 games. This was the same player who started the season with eight goals in eight games.
“You sit there and try not to let it affect you but every time you shoot or make a hard pass, or something like that, it sends a shockwave through you and I think it creeps into your head and you start looking for ways to not shoot.”
Back in June Colborne had his wrist operated on in Toronto and was able to repair the ligaments and “shave down” the broken bone, which had healed on its own, in one surgery.
He focused much of his off-season training on lower-body exercises until he was given clearance in August to start strengthening the wrist. He was back on the ice for the first time last week and is now taking part in full drills alongside other Marlies’ teammates. His recovery, so far, has been on schedule and if it stays that way he expects to be back for the beginning of the AHL season.
But, there is no guarantee.
“If it keeps improving I’m shooting for the start of the year, but if there (are) any setbacks then I may have to miss a bit,” said Colborne. “I want to make sure it’s 100-percent. It’s been frustrating. It’s a strength issue, but the big thing is we don’t want to deal with this again midway through the season.”