Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan did an interview with Sportnet’s Hockey Central on Thursday, and he reflected on his moves during the trade deadline which landed Anthony Mantha and Michael Raffl.
While Raffl impressed in his debut against the New York Islanders, Mantha is already a big contributor for the Capitals. Skating with Nicklas Backstrom and TJ Oshie, the six-foot-five, 234-pound forward scored a goal in each of his first four games – a new Capitals’ franchise record.
MacLellan revealed to Hockey Central that the Capitals aggressively sought to acquire Mantha, not because other divisional rivals like the Islanders and Bruins got better at the deadline, but because they thought he fit in with the direction of the team more so than Jakub Vrana.
“We felt pressure to try and improve what we perceived as weakness in our team ,” MacLellan said of the team’s early planning for the deadline. “We weren’t trying to avoid the rental market, but we tried to identify a skillset of a guy that we thought we needed. Made calls. It took a while to get to the point where it happened.”
MacLellan said he wasn’t sure if Mantha was available or not because it took a while to get a concrete answer from Red Wings’ general manager Steve Yzerman. But once Yzerman became open to a deal, MacLellan made Vrana, two high draft picks, and Richard Panik available to close it.
“We thought that [Mantha] could come in and fit well with some of our skill guys and make a major contribution,” MacLellan said. “So far it’s worked out well. He’s fit really well with Backstrom and Oshie. They seem to have a lot of elements that complement each other. He provides a lot to that line. We’re happy with where we’re at and… what he’s done so far.
“It’s always a risk to bring a guy in,” he added. “You’re not (100 percent) sure. Time will tell here if it really has worked out as well we think it would.”
Mantha, an effortlessly good skater and two-time 20-goal scorer, adds something the Capitals already have in spades: size.
A quick look at the NHL's latest roster report reveals the #Caps' roster is top-3 in average height (6-2) and weight (204.9 lbs). They are the oldest, too, at 29.8 years old. They're also tied for the most international with nine countries represented, led by US with 7.
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) January 14, 2021
This, according to MacLellan, is by design.
“I think size and skill is how you win, especially in the playoffs,” MacLellan said. “You can get bigger, but if you can’t play the game, I don’t think it contributes much to your lineup. I grew up watching the Atlanta Flames. I played a little bit in Calgary. They were big skilled teams. I think that’s the path to a championship, especially in the playoffs.”
MacLellan won a Stanley Cup as a player with the Calgary Flames in 1989 after being acquired at the trade deadline from the Minnesota North Stars. Mac, who scored 18 goals and tallied 44 points that season, was one of seven players on the Flames that year who was six-foot-three or taller. In 2018, he won the Stanley Cup as general manager of the Capitals after helping build one of the biggest and highly skilled teams in the NHL with George McPhee.
As for this year’s postseason, MacLellan does not foresee an easy march to the Stanley Cup Final as the team tries to win a championship for the second time in four seasons. He believes the East Division is stacked, which could end up being a good thing in the postseason.
“I see the four teams as all pretty similar,” MacLellan said. “All play pretty tight, buttoned-up games. All the matchups are hard. We’re so close in the standings right now you don’t know where you’re going to be seeded. The Islanders play a well-structured game. Boston’s really good at their own end. Pittsburgh plays a high-tempo game. I don’t think there’s any matchup I’d prefer. They’re all going to be hard. Whoever comes out of this division is going to be playing some good hockey. You’re going to have to be playing some good hockey to get out.”
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.