Friday, July 8, 2011

Colaiacovo hoping for bigger, more prominent role

Defenseman spending extensive time in St. Louis to get lighter, leaner

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Instead of spending the summer in his hometown of Toronto, Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo is choosing to get more acquainted with his winter home.

Well, it may not be his winter home anymore. The 6-foot-1 Colaiacovo has a love for St. Louis, and this summer's experiences have fortified those feelings.

"It's been great ... absolutely great," Colaiacovo said Thursday morning at St. Louis Mills. "I've spent the majority of the summer here, mostly by choice. I really enjoy it here. I feel that I'm able to accomplish more while I'm here."

Accomplish more?

It's quite evident that's Colaiacovo's mission before the 2011-12 season begins.

While there may be some fun in the St. Louis sun mixed in, the 28-year-old has an agenda. Taking those necessary steps to get his body in better condition is part of the summer program that Colaiacovo has accustomed himself with.
Carlo Colaiacovo is working towards a more prominent role in 2011-12.

You see, there's a reason behind these relentless, tireless days of getting lean, strong and spending important mornings in the weight room. It may be boring to some, but Colaiacovo has a long-term plan.

"I want to win. I'm sick of watching playoff hockey, I'm sick of saying that we should be there," Colaiacovo said. "This city deserves a playoff team and a winning team. It's about time we give them that.

"I have accomplished more. I've worked extremely hard. I've been getting a lot stronger, a lot leaner, making sure that I'm ready to carry a bigger load this year. I'm depending on that for myself. That's a position that I want to be in."

The Blues will count on Colaiacovo more so than people may realize. He's developed a niche both on and off the ice with promising defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who led all Blues in ice time at 22 minutes per game a season ago. Colaiacovo is looking to add more minutes to his ledger for the upcoming season (he averaged 18:08 himself). He'll have to do so if the Blues plan on using the pairing together.

So Colaiacovo's making it a routine of working out and hitting the weights with strength and conditioning coach Nelson Ayotte, one of the best in the business at getting players in the shape and condition they need to be to get prepared for a rigorous 82-game regular season and any potential postseason run.

"The programs for them are different in the summer," Ayotte said. "The philosophy is the same. With them, it's which area can we gain the most with them and what's going to be the new challenge. ... The first 2-3 years, the program is like an introduction. After that, we start with how can we raise that bar."

Colaiacovo will be entering his eighth NHL season, and he hasn't played more than 67 games in any one season. Getting stronger and leaner is one way of trying to work out the injury bug that's plagued him in years past.

"I always train hard every summer, but I think this summer is just a little more motivation," said Colaiacovo, who finished 2010-11 with six goals and 20 assists in 65 games. "I think I've changed my mindset. I want to play a lot more. I want to make sure that I'm in the greatest shape possible to do that.

"I think I've taken that step. I've lost a little more than 10 pounds. I lost a couple percent of body fat. It's still halfway through the summer, so I'm still hoping to improve a lot more. The biggest thing is I just want to prepare myself to be a go-to guy, a guy that can be counted on, a guy that can -- with the majority of the guys we've got -- help lead us to the playoffs."

Colaiacovo said it's a common theme this summer with a lot of the players.

"A lot of guys have taken the initiative to train extra hard this summer," he said. "Guys have been coming in and out. That's expected every summer. But I think the real focus is that guys are sick of watching playoff hockey. You can tell when we talk about the playoffs and stuff with each guy, we all say that it's our turn, it's our time. It's just a matter of making it happen now."

Pietrangelo has all the promise and last season may have been an appetizer of what's to come, but he will need that veteran, savvy guidance. Colaiacovo seems to be the one that is more than willing to take the initiative.

"We have really good chemistry. We get along really well," Pietrangelo said. "Those things are what trends on the ice. We have great communication with each other, play the same style and know where each other is going to be at.

"We know how each other play. It's not like we just got here and it's our first year. We have some familiarity with each other. We've become really close. That certainly helps. It really helps to play with a guy that's got the experience like he does."

Added Colaiacovo, "I've been there. I've been in the league for a long time. If that's what it takes ... I've become real close friends with Alex. He's definitely come a long way from his draft year. Right now, he's a player that we're going to depend on a lot. I like to help him with little things.

"When you come into the league at a young age ... I found myself looking up to Mats Sundin, Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle (in Toronto). Look where those guys are now. As you grow older, as you learn more each year, you want to share that same information with the young guys. I obviously want to lead by example, but at the same sense, I gotta make sure that these guys are doing the right things to get us there."

Colaiacovo, who averaged 23.6 shifts per game last season, will make the occasional trip back home north of the border. Otherwise, it's the Gateway to the Midwest and a workman-like mentality at the Mills that will stay intact.

"Once August starts, we'll start skating on a regular basis and then get myself ready for September," Colaiacovo said. "Then it's smooth sailing from there. No looking back."

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