The Washington Capitals put Anthony Mantha on the open market this offseason but found no takers. Now, with the 2023-24 season fast approaching, Mantha wants to earn a big role and prove he should be in the lineup on a consistent basis.
The 28-year-old Quebec native spoke with assembled media at Serge Savard’s golf tournament on Wednesday. He believes he’s primed for a redemption year and it’s going to come on the back of his main goal, losing 10 pounds this summer.
“Weight loss, [it’s] a question of being faster next season,” Mantha said. “I found that I was missing a small notch in my game on that side. To be stronger and leaner and to be more explosive [is what I’m aiming for].
Mantha admitted that he played last season at 242 pounds which is even heavier than what the Caps had Alex Ovechkin listed at (238 pounds). The winger recorded the worst full season of his career production-wise, putting up just 27 points in 67 games and dealing with multiple healthy scratches.
Mantha is working with renowned physical trainer Stephane Dube as well as Jean-Francois Gaudreau who has created a diet plan for him to achieve his goals.
“I found it a little too heavy,” Mantha said. “My goal is 232. I still have a few pounds to lose, but we have time.”
“As I explained to Anthony, who I’ve been coaching for a few years, with his strength and power, without the extra baggage in the suitcase, he will be quite dangerous,” Dube added. “I’m already seeing an improvement in his agility and speed and we’re not done.”
Since Mantha was acquired by the Capitals during the 2020-21 campaign, he has come nowhere close to reaching his previous NHL career highs. During the 2016-17 season, he scored 25 goals and recorded 48 total points with the Detroit Red Wings in just 67 games.
Mantha says that sort of former production is what he’s aiming for this upcoming year after such a disappointing 2022-23 led to him being shopped around the league.
“I find that I was not present and involved enough for my team,” Mantha said. “Points, hits, and all the little details. I want to be ready this year to accomplish them.
“My personal goal is 60 points this year and then to sign a long-term contract somewhere. I must have a big season – this is the last year of my contract and I would like to bounce back. It’s practically a second chance after last season. I had other less good seasons in the NHL or AHL so I know how to come back strong.”
Mantha adds that the intense trade rumors this summer won’t affect him moving forward. Mantha was dealt by the Wings to the Caps soon after signing a four-year extension with Detroit and he says that whole process has hardened him.
Also, after being scratched by Peter Laviolette last season, Mantha hired a “mental coach” to try and restore his confidence.
“I block everything, I am able to ignore what is being said,” Mantha says now. “I have more of a mentality that it is a business. It is sure that we will move and play elsewhere so I try to stay focused.”
Mantha finished by saying that he is ready to work under new head coach Spencer Carbery and has already been in contact with the rookie bench boss this offseason.
“I don’t know him very well, we spoke together three times this summer,” Mantha said. “We try to focus on when my performances were good. [Carbery] talked to [Jeff] Blashill (Mantha’s coach in Detroit) a few times. We’re going to do video and we’re going to change the game system. I’m going to have some homework to do.”
If general manager Brian MacLellan cannot find the additional move to the team’s top six that he wants to make before the season starts, a rejuvenated Mantha becoming a 60-point player would fill that void. The Caps have Mantha on their books for $5.7 million for one more year.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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