Are Things Between Capitals, Mantha Really Beyond Repair Or Leading To Trade?
The Washington Capitals have scratched Anthony Mantha for the last two games, but is their relationship something that could really lead to a trade? We take a closer look at the situation.
ARLINGTON, V.A. — At 9 a.m. sharp on Sunday morning, Anthony Mantha was on the ice for a very lightly-attended optional morning skate, where he was one of a few extras and goaltenders to get work in. At 5 p.m., the Washington Capitals would take the ice for an early afternoon tilt with the Columbus Blue Jackets — and for the first time in his D.C. tenure, he would not be joining them and instead watch from the press box as a healthy scratch.
The 28-year-old has been the odd man out for two games now, as head coach Peter Laviolette made the "tough decision" to sit him and Nicolas Aube-Kubel as he balances 14 healthy forwards with Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson back in the picture. Mantha was acquired at the 2021 Trade Deadline for Jakub Vrana, who found himself in a similar boat toward the end of his time in the District and was described as being "frustrated" toward the end of his time in the District after being scratched. And now, No. 39 is feeling just that as he waits to slot back into the picture.
"He's frustrated, as he should be," Laviolette pointed out. "If you're in that room, you want to play… He'll get back in there. These decisions are tough."
Through 42 games this season, Mantha has nine goals, 14 assists and a +/- rating of minus-2, and he has struggled to find consistency and an overall rhythm to his game. The 6-5, 234-pound forward also has to work on his play in his own end, using his size to his advantage more and engaging physically while putting in a full 60-minute effort.
“I think I had a good stretch, a bad stretch. It’s part of hockey, I don’t think I was playing terrible. Obviously, the minutes were going down… you kind of knew it was coming. [Confidence] is not as easy to switch on and off you know?"
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Speculation has led some to wonder if things beyond Mantha and the Capitals are beyond repair, especially with The Athletic suggesting that he may have "fallen out of favor" as the coaching staff is choosing to keep him out of the mix for now. He has a cap hit of $5.75 million, too, which also leads to questions regarding whether or not he could be dealt if he's going to be scratched or remain on the bottom-6 while his production has hit a low. He is not on pace to hit the 20-goal mark, and though he's projected to hit at least 40 points, there just hasn't been that consistent spark from him.
But are things really as dire as they seem?
Well, Mantha held himself accountable, and while he's upset with the decision, he pointed out that it was a "wake-up call" and clearly signalled that there needs to be an improvement in not only his performance but his effort, as it's not necessarily a question of just points.
"Work out, work, practice like today and practice tomorrow and I’ll be ready if there’s an injury or if I’m called upon. That’s all can do… I think [it's] just my work ethic. Right now that’s what I need to do if I want to get back in the lineup, and I’ll have to show them."
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Not only that, but Laviolette mentioned that the formation is going to change, and right now, it's about asset management and balancing 14 healthy forwards and not necessarily just performance-based. The chemistry throughout the lineup over the last two games has been lacking, and while shaking up the lines is an answer, tweaks to the lineup wouldn't come as a surprise, especially with Laviolette wanting to keep everyone active.
"He'll get back in there. These decisions are tough, I talked to the players about it… it will change," Laviolette said. "I had a conversation with the players saying if it does change, you can come in and talk to me, but there may be no specific reason why you're coming out of the lineup other than we want to keep everybody active and moving."
In the end, Mantha still has the opportunity to come back and turn things around, and while a couple of scratches with the team getting two stars back into the mix can be demotivating, it's nothing he and the organization can't come back from. If things continue to go down this path, it'll be a different discussion, but there's no pressing the panic button at this time.