The Calgary Flames departed Tuesday on a nine-day adventure in China where they’ll play two exhibition games with the Boston Bruins.
On top of games in Shenzhen (Sept. 15) and Beijing (Sept. 19), their busy schedule will also include four practices, two receptions, a visit to the Great Wall of China and multiple player appearances.
In the midst of it all, the Calgary Flames are tasked, first and foremost, with re-building its on-ice structure under new coach Bill Peters.
Newcomers like Derek Ryan, Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm, Austin Czarnik and James Neal will not only have to learn the new system, but will be working towards getting to know their new teammates.
Some would see it as a general manager’s worst nightmare, given the distractions and logistics involved.
However, after sitting down to discuss the excursion, Brad Treliving said he long ago started embracing the benefits of their unique starting assignment.
Sportsnet: Given how many new faces you have, is this trip a blessing?
Brad Treliving: No question. In hindsight, with the new people here, I think it’s advantageous we’ve got all the people together in one spot.
The good news is we have the group together from Day 1, but the biggest challenge is the travel. A 14-hour flight and 12-hour time change. How do we make sure we maximize the time we’re there and, just as important, how do we get over it when we get back?
We get back the middle of the night on the 19th and they get two full days off. From when we land it’s two weeks until the opener. Not a ton of time. It’s a long ways to go but the beauty of getting a large portion of your team together is it’s a large portion of your camp that group probably wouldn’t be together for two weeks.
Sportsnet: What are some of the questions you hope to have answered about your team in China?
Brad Treliving: I don’t necessarily know if any personnel questions will be answered there. But it’s really about instilling the foundation for how Bill wants the team to play.
The four practices are probably more important than the games because it sets a standard of how we’re going to play. Getting the system down – that’s what I’m looking for. There aren’t huge systematic differences, although there are always little changes from one coach to the next.
Bill will get a feel for combinations, but when we get back, we’ll have a real foundation for how we want to play.
Sportsnet: What did you learn from sending assistant coach Martin Gelinas and team travel director Sean O’Brien on a scouting mission to China this summer?
Brad Treliving: We’re going to have curve balls thrown at us, but we have everything planned out from meals to food to restaurants to hotels and how long it takes to get to practice.
After Gelly and Obie got back we checked in every day to see how they felt. The first day they came back they didn’t feel very good. Day 4 they plateaued out. Marty recovered a lot quicker because he’s active. These players are finely tuned machines so it shouldn’t be too hard on them.
We gave the players booklets on how to prepare for the trip, which included changing their sleeping patterns several days ahead of our departure.
Sportsnet: Tell us a little more about the preparation booklets players were given before the trip?
Brad Treliving: There are two things – there’s the sports science piece where (strength and conditioning coach) Ryan Van Asten and his people have spent the whole summer putting together a plan.
The biggest obstacle for us is the travel. I go to Europe a lot and usually you give it one day and you’re fine. But we’re almost preparing more to come back, because when we come back we have six exhibition games in nine nights.
We have a whole plan for when you get on the plane, when you sleep, what to eat, what to eat to help fall asleep… the sports science piece is pretty detailed. The other stuff is, ‘bring your phone but you’re not going online a lot and doing stuff on the internet.’ Don’t plan on doing a whole lot of online banking while you are over there. It’s just a safety thing with the wifi. Nothing out of the ordinary.
We hope to keep them busy during the days and make the best use of our time. There are two receptions we’ve got to go to, including a trip to the Canadian embassy, and a team thing to the Great Wall of China. A lot of the afternoons are left open.
We’ve got to try to keep them active so they’re not sleeping. We want to get them on the schedule as quickly as you can so the guys can be fresh for practice.
Sportsnet: Should anybody read into the roster decisions you made for China, which sees opening night hopefuls like Juuso Valimaki, David Rittich, Andrew Mangiapane and Spencer Foo left behind for the camp in Calgary?
Brad Treliving: Somebody said to me the other day, ‘so and so got left off.’ Nobody got ‘left off.’ What we looked at all summer is we’ve got two camps. The priority of going to China is that everybody knows who is going to be on the team. Well, Bill Peters needs to get to know Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mark Giordano, Matthew Tkachuk and that group.
If you’re a guy trying to make the team, going to China is probably not the best thing. There are probably going to be four games (in North America) when it’s all said and done that nobody in China is going to participate in. It’s a great opportunity for those staying here. We designed it specifically for that.
(VP Hockey Operations) Don Maloney and (assistant GM) Brad Pascall will be in Calgary. Bill will probably be up watching every game (from China) and he’ll be talking to the coaching staff. Nothing is going to happen here that we don’t know about right after it happens. We’ve got it fully covered.
When we get back we’ll make one big group and go from there.
Sportsnet: Safe to say the guys this will disrupt the most are equipment managers?
Brad Treliving: It’s miserable for them. The guys who really do all the work is them. We say, ‘We’re having training camp 10,000 km away, so just bring everything we need and figure it out.’ A nightmare.