TORONTO There should be plenty of motivation up and down the Maple Leafs roster for tonights TorontoBoston clash at the Air Canada Centre, but one player in particular will be skating like its the game of his life.
Joe Colborne was part of Bostons galaxy of young Bruins stars after he was selected with a first round pick in the 2008 draft, and there was a lot to like with the oversized center. A 6-foot-5 pivot with size, leadership qualities and smarts that also had plenty of playmaking skill and offensive upside, Colborne was a scouts dream in terms of potential.
Clearly Boston wasnt the only team that noticed him, however.
He was midway through his first full pro season in Providence when he found himself packing his bags for Toronto as part of the Tomas Kaberle trade in late February. Fast forward to tonight when the 21-year-old Colborne will suit up for the first time against his former organization since the trade that on some level helped net the Bruins a Stanley Cup.
Colborne never played in a single NHL game for the Black and Gold, but that didnt stop him from running a gamut of emotions while watching the Bs win the Stanley Cup last spring.
The Bruins are obviously stacked at the center position when it comes to organizational depth, and Colborne knew it was going to be difficult to crack Bostons NHL lineup in the short term. But he wasnt about to hide the crestfallen emotions he felt when the trade came down, either.
I was pretty disappointed when the trade happened. Im not gonna lie. I loved Boston and loved everything about Boston. You could see they were on a path for a lot of success, so it was tough, admitted Colborne. But since Ive been in Toronto theyve welcome me in and its been unbelievable. Im pretty happy with where I am right now.
His current state of puck happiness didnt keep his mind from wandering back to his time with the Black and Gold while watching them battle it out with the Canucks during the Stanley Cup Finals.
It was hard watching personally because you know you might have had a chance to be up there with the Bruins and be a part of it, said Colborne. At the same time I was happy for them. I went through the whole Philadelphia series the season before. I realize how much hard work went into that right from management on down because they had a big gut check there. The way they bounced back was really neat."
I have Boston to thank for a lot of my development over the last few years. That said Im really hoping we dominate them like theyve done to us over the last few games. Obviously you want to show your best, and make them regret the decision they made to trade Colborne.
Colborne has four points (a goal and three assists) in five games with the Leafs while centering the third line for Toronto with Joey Crabb and Matt Frattin. He seems to be delivering on the promise everybody saw in Boston. It started at the AHL level where Jumbo Joe tore it up for the Toronto Marlies for two months with 10 goals in 13 games before finally getting promoted the big club. Now he finds himself smack dab in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff pack, and facing a Bs club the Maple Leafs are looking to knock down the standings.
Jordan Caron has known Colborne since the two were 14-year-old midget players in Saskatchewan on a fast track to potential NCAA careers, and is proud of the way hes fought his way to a spot in Toronto. Theyve both come a long way from inexperienced 19-year-olds in the AHL for long stretches of last season.
Its great for him. Hes such a good guy and hes so talented that you knew he was going to make it one way or the other, said Caron. He had a great start in the AHL, hes been called up and hes doing well. Good for him.
Hes such a skilled player, and hes really powerful with that long reach. Hes got a good shot too. Hes going to get even stronger than he is now, and that will make him even better.
Nobody is expecting a Tyler Seguin-type hat trick explosion for Colborne when he suits up against the Bruins tonight, but its also a game the talented center has been waiting nine months for.