Defenseman spent time working out in
St. Louis, focused on making Blues roster
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- In the Blues' 2010-11 team media guide, Ian Cole's bio is listed with the team's regular players.
Was it a coincidence? Perhaps. But the Blues' 2007 first round draft pick out of the University of Notre Dame made it a tough decision right to the end last season on whether he'd make the team out of camp or not.
Cole was in competition with a trio of others fighting for one of two available spots with the big club. And when the 22-year-old came up just short in his quest, the news was tough pill to take but certainly understandable, as far as Cole was concerned.
But looking ahead to the 2011-12 season, Cole heads into it with tunnel vision: he's focused and determined to make the big club and nothing else.
|Ian Cole scored a goal and added three assists in 26 games. Getty Images|
Cole continued, "As a rookie, you don't know what to expect. If you don't make it, you kind of understand. After having a pretty decent last year ... I thought I played pretty well with the Blues (and) I showed them I can play up here. I can handle myself. I'm not going to look too silly."
Cole was a regular recall from the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Peoria frequently, considering the Blues' rash of injuries -- particularly on the defensive side of the ledger. He played in 26 games with the Blues, registering a goal, three assists and a plus-6 rating.
Cole was able to wet his appetite at the NHL level. It was a good experience. Now he wants to be a part of it full-time.
The Blues, barring any trades or free agent signings before the season begins, will open with Alex Pietrangelo, Barret Jackman, Kevin Shattenkirk, Roman Polak and Carlo Colaiacovo as the team's top five defensemen. They are shoe-ins. The team resigned Russian Nikita Nikitin to a one-year, one-way contract. The deal shows the Blues hold Nikitin in high regard and view the umlimited potential where he's concerned.
So Cole, who will battle with Nikitin for the sixth spot and likely go into camp as the odds-on favorite to be No. 7 unless barring any transactions, is determined and has one advantage in his favor going into next season: the experience factor.
"It's pretty much make the team or ... I don't want to say bust but it would be a disappointment to be sent down," Cole admitted. "I'm not saying it wasn't a disappointment last year, but starting off here and then having a good training camp will be a good indicator that I deserve to be up here and I'm hoping that's the conclusion."
That, and the fact that Blues players took motivation from watching Boston and Vancouver battle it out for the game's most prized possession: the Stanley Cup.
"Watching (Game 7) and looking back at that speechless NHL commercial they have ... that just epitomizes what it's like to win that trophy," Cole said. "You work so hard. It's the hardest trophy to win in sports, bar none.
"Game 7 ... that's the pinnacle right there. Maybe getting married would be a good day, your kids being born would be a good day, but winning the Stanley Cup ... come on, that would be awesome."
Which is why the 18th overall pick of '07 has taken part in strength and conditioning coach Nelson Ayotte's summer workout program.
"It's part of the process," Cole said. "There are some days where you can think to yourself how you're going to go easy on this workout or you don't want to do it today, but it really comes down to what you see on that night (Game 7). If you don't prepare for it now, you might not ever be able to experience what they have experienced in Boston. It's something that I want to experience more than anything."
Cole has since departed and will not return to St. Louis until sometime in August. He will continue to work out on his own, but he'll do so while continuing his education at Notre Dame, where Cole is majoring in psychology.
It doesn't mean Cole will take the rest of the summer for granted. These players realize their time is on the horizon, and they're putting in the necessary time to take those steps towards the playoffs and beyond.
"The summer's going to be crucial," Cole said. "This summer's going to be very telling to make those steps needed to be a playoff team next year. I'm on board with it. We're all stoked."