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WTE: What can we expect from Joe Colborne?

Colborne was a surprise break-out player from last season, but can he take the next step?

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

With pre-season right around the corner, Matchsticks and Gasoline brings you the first article in the WTE (What to Expect) series. First up will be the cheaply-acquired, Joe Colborne who was conveniently traded to us from the Leafs for a fourth round pick in late September last year. Ironically though, Toronto got hit with the injury bug that depleted their center depth and Colborne produced more than the recently signed free agent, David Clarkson.

The 6'5'' forward started playing center for the Flames which did not work no matter who was on the ice with him, which led him to being moved to right wing with Sean Monahan on the second line. No need to mention how that worked out...

Role on the Team

In 2013-2014, Colborne's opportunities on the team were endless. He was brought into the lineup playing on the first line for some time. When things didn't work out there he went up and down the lineup for a while until he found his niche, playing right on the second line with Monahan.

With the off-season acquisitions of forwards Devin Setoguchi and Mason Raymond and the hopeful resurgence of Curtis Glencross, Colborne will need to work hard and prove he can play a top-six role when it's not given to him. Not to take away anything from him though, the man had a breakout year and has the skills and potential to build off of that. Only problem is that he will be getting less minutes and depending on how he deals with it, it may or may not affect his production.

I could see Colborne starting off the season on the same line(s) he played on last season and then his play will dictate his ice time for the rest of the season. Given the fact that he will likely have to give up a lot, if not all, of his time on the power-play Hartley can possibly try to make him a regular penalty killer to help with his defensive game. All in all, he'll be playing a similar role with some less minutes due to the depth we acquired.

Where has he improved?

In the past, Colborne was often criticized for his inability to use his big, strong frame to his advantage. That and his lackluster speed were some of the factors that affected his production and scared away GM's who didn't want to invest their time in trying to develop him.

Over time however, he's shown that he has improved in this category quite a lot over the past couple of years and the goal that he scored in the video above is a pure example of that. In another game against the Coyotes, he had muscled past two defenders who were at the side of the net, found his way into the slot and despite being unable to score, he generated a pretty good scoring chance (unfortunately I don't have a video on that).

Where can he improve?

With all this being said about his improvement, skating and using his size is still something that he can work on to get more ice time and become a better player. Colborne can become a dynamic second line power forward if he can get faster speed and use his frame to its full advantage. He already has the hands, the vision and a two-way game to help him get some ice time from Hartley and excel for every second of it, now it's just a matter of proving the doubters wrong.

Considering Colborne's playing style and the type of guys Hartley and Burke like to play, he only has opportunity after opportunity here in Calgary.

2013-2014 Statistics: GP 80 G 10 A 18  P 28 +/- -17 PIM 34 PP 1 SHG 0

2014-2015 Projected Statistics: GP 82 G 13 A 19 P 32 +/- -8 PIM 38 PP 0 SHG 3

Overall, Joe Colborne will improve slightly from last season, but don't expect him to become the big power-forward that everyone wants him to be just yet. He'll more than likely fight for his spot in the lineup but will lose ice time some due to the newly signed depth from the off-season. He will also probably see his powerplay time diminish but his dependence on the penalty kill make up for that. Given Colborne has the work ethic to get even better, we should expect more physical play along with more consistency to build off of a breakout year.

Thanks for reading the first WTE on Matchsticks and Gasoline and be sure to vote on the poll to let us know who should be next on the list. If you would like someone else, just leave us a comment on who you would want to see.