TORONTO– Forward Joe Colborne is open to changing positions if it guarantees him a spot with the Leafs.
The 23-year-old, who re-signed a one-way contract with Toronto in early July, is one of five centremen expected to make the team in the fall, which means someone will have to shift to the wing for each of them to be in the lineup on a regular basis.
“I’ve said ever since day one if (the coaches) want to throw me on the wing I don’t care,” said Colborne. “I want in the lineup and to play with some good players. If it means the wing, then that’s fine. It’s a good thing to have options.”
Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri and Dave Bolland will most likely play the middle on the top three lines, leaving Colborne and Jay McClement for the fourth line between enforcers Colton Orr and Fraser McLaren. With third line left wing still up for grabs either player could be moved, however where Colborne ends up will be based on what sort of player the club wants him to be.
“I’m just hoping I can contribute,” said Colborne.
Despite what position Colborne may play, it’s been a long time coming in terms of making it as an everyday NHL player.
Acquired in the Tomas Kaberle trade with the Bruins in February 2010, Colborne has yet to live up to the expectations of a first-round draft pick as he’s suited up in just 16 NHL games through three seasons of call-ups from the AHL. However, after a slow start to the 2012-13 season, he went on to average nearly a point per game from January to April with the Marlies and was rewarded with a call up at the end of the season, which included two playoff games against the Boston Bruins.
“I think I went a long way to show I can play at the NHL level and it’s about taking the next step, continuing to show I deserve to be up here,” said Colborne. “I don’t want to be content on coming up and being an average player. I want to continue to improve and be a go-to guy.”
Colborne’s tenure in Toronto has had its setbacks, most notably a wrist injury in December 2011 that lingered way longer than it should have. While playing with torn ligaments in his left wrist, with cortisone shots to reduce pain, Colborne broke the wrist and needed surgery after the 2011-12 season to repair it. Despite going through the rehab and getting the wrist physically fit, the damage was done mentally. Trying to play through it, which he admitted was a mistake, crushed his confidence as he went 31 games without a goal. He stopped shooting, stopped going to the net and even found himself as a healthy scratch with the Marlies in November of 2012.
“Wrist is awesome (now), shooting a lot of pucks back home, getting the confidence that I can take a wrist shot and score from anywhere, which is something I didn’t have last year,” said Colborne. “It’s been a long-term issue. You try and keep it out of your mind but when its pain over and over again you start to develop habits that your body naturally favors. It’s taken a lot to break those habits and get back to how I was playing before and I’ve come along way.”
On Tuesday Colborne skated at the MasterCard Centre in Toronto and his 6-foot-5 frame was noticeably larger on the ice as he scrimmaged with 18 other members of the organization.
“I weighed in just under 222 pounds,” said Colborne. “I was around 213 when the season ended. I came in at 216 to start last year. I’m looking forward to maybe one or two pounds more, but I feel fast and strong on the ice so I’m not too worried about weight. If it comes I want to make sure it’s the good weight.”
The Calgary native headed home Wednesday and will continue his off-season routine with his own trainer that he’s worked with for many years. He then plans to come back to Toronto and train with skating consultant Barbara Underhill before training camp begins in September.