After the Flames acquired Calgary native and AJHL alum Joe Colborne on Saturday, many Flames fans began to wonder what kind of opportunity Colborne would receive on the Flames roster, especially acknowledging the fact that Colborne must be kept on the Flames’ NHL roster or risk waiver exposure. Both Jay Feaster and Bob Hartley were adamant in their belief that the six-foot-five, 23 year old pivot is NHL ready right now and will fit right into the Flames’ opening night roster. The question now becomes: Where exactly is that?
With Matt Stajan, Mikael Backlund, Sean Monahan, and Roman Horak currently listed as Flame’s centres still in camp, it now seems exceedingly likely that Colborne will immediately become the Flame’s third line centre to start the year, most likely at the expense of Horak whom will likely face demotion or move to the wing. Depending on whether or not the Flames decide to keep Monahan up after his almost certain nine-game NHL audition, and the performance of Backlund and Stajan, Colborne’s position on the depth chart could improve quickly in the early months of the season. What this addition also spells the end of is the T.J Galiardi experiment at centre, an unequivocally good thing for Flames fans.
Aside from increasing the Flames’ size and depth down the middle of the ice, something desperately needed throughout the past number of seasons, Colborne’s arrival gives the Flames three NHL quality centreman. That is, of course, if Colborne indeed proves himself worthy of the ice-time. This leads me to another important point, the problem of opportunity. As I have discussed earlier with Sven Baertschi, the Flames will have to offer Colborne a genuine chance at proving himself at the NHL level, and that means surrounding him with competent linemates and giving him upwards of 13 minutes a night.
In Colborne’s brief five-game stint with the Maple Leafs last season, the most he played was 13:26, against Florida, a game that the Leafs blanked the Panthers 4-0. During that brief time with the Leafs, Colborne wasn’t really playing sheltered minutes either, with a 42.9 offensive-zone start percentage. Now granted this was an exceedingly small sample size but I am sure many Flames fans are hoping that this is a preview for his usage in Calgary. Another real unknown at this point regarding Colborne’s efficacy as an NHLer is Colborne’s ability in the face-off circle, as the stats that are available are hardly detailed enough to gain an accurate picture. However, some excellent information about Colborne’s time in the Leafs organization is available here.
If Colborne can become a hard-minutes, offensively capable top-nine centre for the Flames, this trade is an enormous win for the Flames. I would even venture, as many already have, that this trade is already a huge win for the Flames as they were able to leverage their cap-position and acquire a player that addresses a fairly well-documented organizational need. What is perhaps most encouraging about a trade like this is the patience shown by management to wait until the Flames were in an advantageous position to make the deal, rather than seeing the youth at centre and signing a fringe-NHL veteran in order to fill out the roster. The deal itself is exceedingly low-risk for the Flames (they only surrendered a conditional fourth rounder to acquire Colborne) and the upside is clear, the Flames have another candidate to stabilize the middle of their roster for the foreseeable future.