It's very hard to classify a team as the "loser" in a trade that eventually wins them the Stanley Cup.
I mean, the goal of all 30 NHL teams each year is to hoist the Cup at the end of the season. Teams that are truly close frequently gamble that their time is at hand, and trade a piece of their future to improve their chances that year. When they gamble and lose, the gamble can prove quite costly. But when you win, the gamble is forgotten, because the goal was achieved.
So it's hard to say that the Boston Bruins lost the deal that saw them acquire Tomas Kaberle from the Maple Leafs last year at the trade deadline, in exchange for a first round pick, a second round pick (included as a result of Boston reaching the Finals), and prospect Joe Colborne. Kaberle did not provide the contribution to Boston's powerplay, that they expected, and left in the summer as a un unrestricted free agent.
The Leafs would trade both of the picks they received from Boston at the Entry Draft; using Boston's first and their own second-round picks to move up and select Tyler Biggs, and traded the second round pick to Colorado in exchange for John-Michael Liles, who would serve as Kaberle's replacement on the Leafs. Liles has made an immediate impact on the Leafs this season, and Biggs is a welcome addition to the Leafs prospect cupboard.
But the addition of the 6'5" Colborne could be the one piece that Bruins fans might wish they could have back. Far be it from me to suggest that Bruins fans would rather have Colborne than the Cup, but that with the benefit of hindsight they would probably try and not part with the big playmaking centre in exchange for Kaberle.
Colborne becomes the best big, skilled centre prospect in the organization since Nikolai Antropov, and was voted #5 in our Top 25 Under 25.
Getting shipped out of Boston may prove to be the best thing to have happened for Colborne's career. After joining Boston's AHL affiliate in Providence, he found himself stuck on the third line behnd Jamie Arniel and Zach Hammil. The move to the Toronto Marlies gave Colborne an opportunity to play top six minutes, and he immediately began to pay dividends. scoring 8 goals and 8 assists in 20 games with the Marlies down the stretch. After the Marlies season ended, he would make his NHL debut, registering his first NHL point in the Leafs' last game of the season.
This season, having added strength to his lanky 6'5" frame, Colborne and Joey Crabb ran roughshod over the AHL in the month of October, with Colborne earning Player of the Month honours and both earning call-ups to the Leafs. Colborne played 9 games, scoring 4 points, before being returned as other players began to get healthy.
Since his return Colborne has tailed off from his fast start. After 19 points in 13 games before his recall to the Leafs, Colborne has had a rough time in his second tour of duty with the Marlies this season, scoring 12 points in 23 games. His 31 points is still good for 3rd in Marlies scoring, and the return of Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin to the Marlies lineup has helped him return to his scoring ways.
At 21 years of age, Colborne is still growing into his body, trying to transition from a lanky, almost skinny giant into a player capable of physically overpowering defenceman down low. The combination of his size and skill makes him a legitimate prospect, and one that the Leafs are counting on to blossom into a top six forward for the Leafs.
Colborne's stage in his development could potentially force the Leafs hands in the next year. The Leafs have two of their top three centreman (Bozak and Connolly) under contract for one more season, and Mikhail Grabovski's contract expires at the end of this year. Where the Leafs see Colborne in his development could play a factor in the Leafs' decision to re-sign Grabovski, or to try and move one of their other centremen.
The panel was split on where to put Colborne in the rankings. Three of us had him at #3, and 3 others right around his actual ranking of #5. JP Nikota's affinity for ranking players who have become established pros higher dropped Colborne to #8, leaving him one point behind our #4 selection.