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Shuffle to wing sparked Colborne’s season

by Andrew Halipchuk / Calgary Flames

Oh yeah. Not too many people get to say they can play for their hometown. It’s been dream come true for me.Joe Colborne

CALGARY, AB -- Joe Colborne blossomed in the return to his hometown of Calgary.

Now, he doesn’t want to leave.

Colborne, set to become a restricted free agent this summer, was acquired by the Calgary Flames from the Toronto Maple Leafs in late September. The 24-year-old has expressed explicit interest in remaining with his home team heading forward.

“Oh yeah,” Colborne said. “Not too many people get to say they can play for their hometown. It’s been dream come true for me.”

The 24-year-old explained that he didn’t do much in the way of contract discussion during the regular season, but expects talks to get underway soon between his camp and director of hockey operations and interim general manager Brian Burke.

"I’ve tried to stay away from that as much as possible, but I know that Brian and my agent have a very good relationship . . . and the intent is there,” Colborne said. “I’m sure, now that the season’s over, they’ll, hopefully sooner rather than later, get talking."

Part of the reason Colborne wants to stay in Calgary is because he liked the atmosphere of the city and the response the fans gave the team in its first year of rebuild.

“It’s been an awesome year,” he said. “There’s a lot of excitement building, especially with the way the team’s moving, the young guys we’ve brought in and the unbelievable leadership core.

“It’s an organization going in the right direction.”

Colborne, like many teammates, enjoyed a career year in his first season in Calgary, netting 10 goals and adding 18 assists for 28 points in his first complete season in the National Hockey League.

It came largely as a result of another big change.

With the emergence of depth at center, Flames coach Bob Hartley shuffled Colborne from his natural position down the middle to Sean Monahan’s right wing in an effort to get the 6-foot-5, 213-pound forward more ice time.

“It got to a point with Joe’s progression I couldn’t give him enough ice time at centre in order to keep his progression going,” Hartley said. “I felt on the wing, he protects the puck very well, he has a frame to put on more muscle – and he will.”

The move sparked Colborne’s production.

In 28 games as a pivot, Colborne recorded three goals and eight points. The following 52 games on the wing yielded seven goals and 20 points out of the former Camrose Kodiaks standout.

But before looking to next season and despite his best personal season to date, Colborne couldn’t help but be left disappointed with how the 2013-14 campaign ended.

“We aren’t obviously where we want to be right now,” he said. “We didn’t make the playoffs and any time you’re going home at this time of year, it’s obviously a disappointment.”

That didn’t take away from the fact that the Flames made some great progress in their first season of rebuild.

“There’s something kind of different about this year, I guess you could say.” Colborne said. We’ve made some good strides.

“We’re generating some excitement."

An excitement Colborne hopes to be a part of next year.

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