Flames coach is all business
SHENZHEN, CHINA Prior to departure, Bill Peters had repeatedly stressed that this is, first and foremost, a business trip.
So it should be no surprise that just moments after the Calgary Flames arrived Wednesday night at their hotel in Shenzhen, China, their new head coach was keen to fast forward to the next morning and, finally, put his plan into action.
As it turned out, he would have to wait a wee bit longer.
The Flames’ first practice at Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center was postponed by four hours — bumped from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time — due to a delay in their equipment being cleared through customs.
“We’ve put a lot of time in to prepare for this trip to China, and now it will finally come to fruition,” Peters said upon Wednesday’s arrival, raring to go despite the grind of a 14-hour flight.
“It’s our first day on the ice, and the focus is going to be on O -zone forecheck and O-zone entries. Then we’re going to flood, and we’re going to come back out and spend 30 minutes on specialty teams.
“We have a plan in place for all four practice days.”
That plan was finalized long before they filled their suitcases for this once-in-a-lifetime trip to the opposite side of the globe.
Not only do the Flames have an overhauled staff — Peters, ex of the Carolina Hurricanes, was hired in late April — and a bunch of new faces on the roster, but they ’re also facing the unique challenge of running three training-camp groups on two separate continents.
From the dynamic forward duo of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan to the top defence pair of T.J. Brodie and Mark Giordano and starting puck-stopper Mike Smith, all of Calgary’s key contributors are together at the O.R.G. China Games, a two-game exhibition set against the Boston Bruins in Shenzhen and Beijing.
Peters and his big-league staff — associate Geoff Ward, assistants Ryan Huska and Martin Gelinas and goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet — are here, too.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Flames’ main-campers will gear up Friday for their first sessions, anxious to make an impression while the go-to guys are globe-trotting.
Among those staying put in Calgary were goaltender David Rittich — the front-runner to serve as Smith’s backup this season — and top prospects Dillon Dube and Juuso Valimaki, who captained their respective countries at the world juniors last winter and are hoping to jump straight to the Saddledome as first-year pros.
Cail MacLean, now skipper for the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat, will run the drills for the Calgary-based campers.
“The challenge is that you have to be more organized,” Peters summarized. “What we’re doing is we’re going to run the same practices. The first four practices are identical. They’re going to be showing the exact same video on the first four days of practice (in Calgary) that we’re going to show in China. So just because we’re not back there ... We’re going to know what has been said and what drills have been run and what concepts have been taught.
“And when we get back home, it should be as seamless as possible with the amalgamation into one group.”
The Flames’ travelling troupe has a pair of practices prior to Saturday ’s pre-season opener against the Bruins in Shenzhen, then two more prep sessions before a game Wednesday in Beijing.
Those on-ice workouts will provide the first glimpse into Peters’ approach and the identity he’s hoping to create for a crew that underachieved last winter, costing former head coach Glen Gulutzan his job.
“Out of our staff, they can expect an organized staff. They’re going to see a staff that knows what they want and there’s going to be a certain style of play that will be noticeable once we get through training camp and it’s the regular season,” Peters promised.
“The system play will take a little bit. There will be some communication and some conversation from players. They understand there is no such thing as a bad question when you’re changing coaches, so if you’re unsure, make sure you ask.
“And then we want them to play. We don’t want them to have to think a whole bunch. We want them to be able to play and play hard and play fast.”
We’ve put a lot of time in to prepare for this trip to China, and now it will finally come to fruition.
Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters has travelled to the other side of the world to officially begin his coaching duties.