Carlo Colaiacovo couldn't fall asleep on Saturday night, but it was not because the young defenceman was wondering with excitement about whose foursome he would play in during the Maple Leafs' getaway to Gravenhurst.
In fact, Colaiacovo didn't make the trip. Both he and fellow young defenceman Staffan Kronwall were told Saturday night by general manager John Ferguson and coach Pat Quinn that they would be starting the season with the Toronto Marlies, the Leafs' AHL affiliate.
"My whole instinct now is to prove them wrong," Colaiacovo said yesterday. "I'm confident that will happen, but I have no hard feelings. I felt ready (to play for the Leafs)."
It's somewhat ironic that Colaiacovo would be cut at time when there is some optimism regarding the Leafs' youth. Forwards Alex Steen and Kyle Wellwood were on the bus for the bonding trek north, and sophomore Matt Stajan has a bright future.
At the outset of camp, it appeared Colaiacovo's time had come. The 22-year-old was coming off a season with St. John's in which he had a few injuries, but managed to collect 24 points in 49 games. The Leafs' first-round pick in 2001, Colaiacovo knew he was not going to have a job handed to him but some felt he had one to lose.
In 2002, Colaiacovo made the big club out of camp but played in only two games and was sent back to Erie of the OHL that November. He also played in two games for the Leafs in January 2004.
Known for his offensive skills, Colaiacovo scored one goal in four pre-season games this time around and was plus-1, but also had 10 penalty minutes. Leafs brass were hoping Colaiacovo showed more of an edge, without the trips to the penalty box. It didn't help that Andy Wozniewski, who went to Gravenhurst, progressed as camp moved along.
Perhaps Colaiacovo's camp was captured in a short span during a game against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night. Not long after scoring what stood up as the winning goal, a Colaiacovo giveaway led to a score by Kirk Maltby.
"They told me I have to get better with my defensive game," Colaiacovo said. "I felt I came a long way since last year. I'm happy with the way I performed in camp but at times I felt like I tried to do too much. Mistakes were made."
Despite his disappointment, Colaiacovo was keeping his head up yesterday.
"It's a good chance now to play for Paul Maurice and I am excited about that," Colaiacovo said. "He has a great reputation and he can help me develop."
Also going north for the mini-camp yesterday were forwards Nathan Perrott and Clarke Wilm. Goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin didn't make the trip. The final cuts likely will come tomorrow.