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Tweetmail No. 225: Sleep, Road Trips & California

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

SAN JOSE - Hello and welcome to Tweetmail, a weekly feature on in which I take your Twitter questions about the Carolina Hurricanes or other assorted topics and answer them in mailbag form. Hopefully the final product is insightful to some degree, and maybe we have some fun along the way.

Let's get to it.

Tweet from @B_Low_: How does jet lag effect the players? How do they manage their sleep schedules?

Great and pertinent question! I tracked down Bill Burniston, the Canes' head of strength and conditioning and noted CanesCast listener and two-time guest, to learn more about how the team best prepares its players for shifting time zones. (He sits behind me on the plane, so it wasn't too difficult.)

Going east to west, he said, wasn't as much of a concern as going in the opposite direction; gaining time isn't as jarring on your internal body clock as losing time. In 2018-19, the Canes flew out to Los Angeles two days prior to the game, but this season, they scheduled a day-before flight, which is the norm in the NHL. If nothing else, that helps to maintain routine (in this case: practice, fly, morning skate, game), and athletes are certainly creatures of habit. And, hey, maybe that worked: The Canes were shut out 2-0 by the Kings last season and then flipped the script this time around with Petr Mrazek's 31-save shutout in a 2-0 victory.


The bigger concern for Burniston is traveling back east after Friday's game in Anaheim. With a five-day gap in between games, the thought is to get the team reacclimated to Eastern time as soon as possible. So, the Canes will hop on a red-eye flight immediately following the game and land in Raleigh some time around 6 or 7 a.m. on Saturday.

Red-eye flights, while efficient in a travel sense, present a unique set of challenges. To optimize his plan for the Canes, Burniston consulted with Dr. James Maas, whose website describes him as the "leading authority and international consultant on sleep and performance."

Burniston then compiled a document that he will disseminate to players and staff, a list of tips broken down into four sections: pre-boarding, pre-flight, in-flight and day of arrival. Below is a sampling of some the included tips.

Hydration is key prior to boarding (and following a game). Before take-off, it's important to prepare for sleep - avoid caffeine and large, fatty meals, grab a pillow and blanket for comfort, pull the window shade down to avoid light intrusion and use the bathroom before sleeping. During the flight? Sleep as much as possible, blocking out noise with headphones and keeping the cabin as dark as possible. Upon arrival in Raleigh, stay awake for the remainder of the day, if possible. If sleep is necessary, do so upon arriving home, but wake within an hour of normal waking time. Then, get as much natural light as possible and go to bed early.

Win the day! 

Tweet from @goCanes_score: #Tweetmail How many points has the team earned in each of the past five State Fair trips? And how many points did we have prior to each trip? We are off to a rousing start so if this is the best State Fair trip in recent history, what would that look like? ������🐄🥧🎠🎡

The State Fair road trip - the colloquial name for the time the Hurricanes spend away from Raleigh while the North Carolina State Fair is nearby - used to be this behemoth of a task for the Canes in mid-October, the albatross around the neck that the team would point to at the end of the season, bemoaning the necessity of a better start.

It's evolved over the years, though, to be a much shorter, much more manageable stretch. The Canes even staged a home game during last year's State Fair and will do so again this year.

So, let's look back at the last five State Fair road trips, defined as games played on the road while the State Fair was in town (for the sake of this exercise, we're excluding road games played after the last day of the fair).

2018-19 3-0-1 1-2-0
2017-18 1-0-1 2-2-0
2016-17 No games 1-2-2
2015-16 0-3-0 2-3-0
2014-15 0-2-1 0-3-1

The Canes' starts, especially from 2017 on, have been markedly better, and their 6-0-1 record this year is their best through the first seven games of a season in franchise history. Even a .500 record on this trip, which features three games in California followed by a divisional match-up in Columbus next week, keeps the Canes in solid standing.

Tweet from @xLittleCaitlinx: Any idea what game could possibly be TvR���s first game back? #Tweetmail

Trevor van Riemsdyk is traveling with the Hurricanes and has been a full participant in practice coming up on two weeks now.

"Definitely now we're in the day-to-day phase, so that's good," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said before leaving on this road trip.

I suppose there is a chance van Riemsdyk could see game action on this trip, perhaps in Anaheim, but I think the more likely scenario is a return to the lineup in Columbus on Oct. 24 or at home against his former team on Oct. 26. This would build in another three practice days, at least, where he can truly put his surgically repaired shoulder through the paces to ensure that it's game-ready.

Tweet from @twsmith2014: What do you attribute Aho and Nino���s slow starts to? #Tweetmail

I think we have to be careful what we label as "slow starts." Yes, Nino Niederreiter hasn't scored a goal just yet, but it's not for a lack of opportunity. According to NaturalStatTrick, Niederreiter has totaled 48 scoring chances, 19 of which have been high-danger opportunities, at 5-on-5 play in the first seven games of the season. Statistically speaking, he should have found the back of the net by now - multiple times over, in fact - but, for whatever reason, luck hasn't been on his side. That will change soon.

Sebastian Aho has two empty-net goals in the first seven games, but guess what? Those goals count just the same. Is he pressing in other situations? Yes, probably. Just look at his scoring opportunity from the first period in Los Angeles when Martin Necas delivered a beauty of a seam pass that Aho one-timed into the side of an otherwise gaping net. Once he gets one of those, plenty more will follow.

It would be concerning if neither of these players was generating quality scoring opportunities, but they both are. The finish will follow.

Tweet from @tw1st3d_w1ll: Is there a more beautiful mind in the nhl than @NHLEricT ? Guy is a genius.

Did we just find Eric Tulsky's burner account?

But, seriously, he's super duper smart, and he's heading up a growing analytics department. More on that in the coming days.

Tweet from @Procrastikate13: @MSmithCanes food recommendations in California?



Join me next week for more questions and more answers!

If you have a question you'd like answered or you also share an affinity for animal style fries, you can find me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes, or you can drop me an email.

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