Anthony Mantha did not have a season that he or the Washington Capitals wanted him to have. Mantha put up just 27 points (11g, 16a) in 67 games and was healthy scratched multiple times by head coach Peter Laviolette. He also dealt with a nagging groin injury down the stretch.
It’s a season that saw the 28-year-old, Quebec native lose his confidence and in a constant state of trying to find his game. At his lowest personal point this year, Mantha hired a mental coach to try and help him regain some of what he had lost.
Mantha says that coaching will continue over the entire offseason.
Mantha was first scratched by Laviolette on January 8 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. That game saw the returns for both Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson from offseason surgeries.
While the night was a celebration for those two, it left Mantha looking for answers. He says he hired his mental coach soon after having to sit and watch that game from the press box.
“I started that a couple weeks after being scratched actually,” Mantha said. “I’ve worked with some mental coach in the past, couple years ago from Quebec, and now I started with a company from Toronto. It’s been helping. There’s a long ways to go but at least I know where I’ll be heading when I come back here next year.”
A constant theme in Mantha’s media availability was his acknowledgment that his 2022-23 season was not up to par compared to what the team expects of him. He says that the healthy scratching really did the opposite of motivating him and actually made him struggle even more to contribute the way he has in the past.
Mantha’s season featured a 19-game stretch without a goal to start the 2023 portion of the team’s schedule.
“Crazy tough [year],” Mantha said. “Being scratched is a hard hit in the face. You come back and you try to get things going and get the confidence and sometimes it’s way harder than people can imagine. Putting extra pressure on yourself, putting extra details, and then you go out there and you’re actually thinking more than you were before. Obviously, it’s not the season I wanted.”
While he admits sitting out did not help him improve, Mantha also refused to put any of the blame on now-free-agent head coach Peter Laviolette. Laviolette and the Caps decided to mutually part ways on Friday.
The veteran bench boss led the Caps to their worst full season in 16 years
“I don’t think it’s anything between us,” Mantha said. “I think it’s just myself to blame. Maybe my lack of skating, my lack of shooting, or my decision-making. Maybe all the details that he looked into. I think at the end of the day it’s a coaching staff decision more than just Lavy. It just takes a toll on your confidence when it happens once and then after that you’re just looking for your game that’s maybe not present.”
While putting down his own play was a theme of his presser so was Mantha’s optimism that he’ll be a changed, new and improved player next season. He says that it all starts with his offseason plan.
“I’m gonna have probably the best summer workout-wise, skating, mental coach, and I’ll be coming back out here next year with some fire just to prove to everyone that I can do the job,” Mantha said. “Next year is going to be a big year for me personally. I want to stick around this league for a long time. I need to work very hard next year to prove that I’m still good and still capable of hanging around.
“I can’t stand behind here and say I was happy with my year,” he continued. When you reflect, you try to be honest. If not, you’re never going to move forward and you’re never going to get better.”
If Mantha learned one thing from his tough year it’s the importance of taking care of yourself mentally in the NHL. After more mental coaching, he’ll hope to have a better handle on that aspect if he’s back in DC come September for the last year on his current contract.
“It’s not two sessions and you gain your confidence back,” Mantha said. “It’s making commitments, making decisions, making goals. On a short term, yes, there is some things that you can improve which I think I did but it’s mostly on long term the effects actually comes in.
“This is the best game but sometimes the hardest,” he finished. “It’s mentally, physically – it all impacts the type of game you’re playing out there.”
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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