André Burakovsky and Mental Toughness: Coping Through A Mid-Season Slump

Photo: Nick Wass

There are physical injuries that we become aware of when a season comes to an end. And perhaps just as significant, but most often not publicized, many professional athletes also deal with challenging struggles to work through physical and mental slumps when they feel they are not reaching their fullest potential. 

NoVa Caps contributor and Swedish translator Sofie Bengtsson translated a recent article written by Kajsa Kalemus, which sheds some light on the 2015-16 season as it specifically relates to the youngest member of the Washington Capitals, 21-year old left winger Andre Burakovsky.

The published article in Swedish can be found by clicking here.

He [Andre] was in a heavy slump mid-way through the 2015-16 season, and saw no way out. Then he got the opportunity to talk with the Washington Capital’s sports psychologist, and everything changed overnight. There is now a confidence-filled Andre Burakovsky that’s eager to take the next step – and possibly even get a “Filip Forsberg” contract! In order to get that kind of a contract, Andre told that it’s very important to come up to fifty points and deliver.

During his second season with the Washington Capitals Andre Burakovsky took big strides. In 79 regular season games he delivered 38 points. But even though the numbers show a success, the young striker says that he had a slump in the middle of the season.

“I thought a lot about what happened and why it was like it was. I overthink a little too much when I get into those depressions. The only thing to do is to not think about it and just have fun. You should not think at all.”

Andre says that everything almost changed overnight. He talked to the coach and the team’s sports psychologist who gave him solid advice on how he would get rid of the ghosts in his brain.

“The sports psychologist said I should think about getting out in every game and prove something new. I should ignore what happened and just go out and have fun. It went just fine and I scored immediately,” says the Austrian born talent.

After the slump, he finished the regular season strong, the last 40 or 45 games. Then came the playoffs where Washington was eliminated in the second round by the team that would continue on to win the Stanley Cup. Many Capitals and hockey fans alike were shocked by their early exit in the playoffs.

“There were many on our team that under-performed. Myself, Kuzy and others. We did not perform the way we wanted. Philadelphia was tough to beat, they play very physical and it did not suit me or Kuzy. Pittsburgh was better for my own style, but unfortunately I was not able to produce against them.”

After the bitter elimination of the NHL season, Andre was supposed to undergo foot surgery. But he felt that he still wanted to play in the World Championship so he postponed the surgery and played and had a lot of fun participating. “It was very instructive to me.”

The debate on how players possibly fake injuries as a means to decline their participation in the World Championship games are nothing Burakovsky wanted to comment on. He reminded me that in the NHL there is a pre-season, then 82 regular season games and then the Stanley Cup playoffs. All of those games can begin to take a toll on one’s body.

“Many players probably feel very down after being knocked out of the Stanley Cup playoffs so they’re not very excited about playing; they are feeling depressed. So perhaps some players fake injuries so they don’t have to participate, but there are many others who are actually injured and need to rest their bodies.”


Even though Andre had real injuries after the long NHL season and two-rounds in the playoffs, he still chose to go. For him there was no other option.

“I was not ready to go home and work out in the gym, running on hills and or relaxing on the beach. I wanted to be in a cold ice rink playing more hockey.”

While many NHL players are in the free agent circus and spins, the young boy from Skåne has a safe roster spot with the Washington Capitals. He has one year left on his contract and has a dream of writing a “Filip Forsberg contract” when the next season is over. But to land such a monster contract – $36 million spread over six years, to be exact – you have to perform.

Do you feel that you have extra pressure on you next season?:

“You always have pressure on yourself. If you are not playing good, you are not playing at all. You could have a couple of bad games and not getting many points during the first or second year. But if you should get a large contract it is important to come up to fifty points and deliver. You need to really be a key for your team. So of course there is pressure. But I like to have a little pressure on me.”

How do you think it will go, then?: “I think it will go just fine.”


Original Article Written By: Kajsa Kalemus
Translated By: Sofie Bengtsson, NoVa Caps

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4 Responses to André Burakovsky and Mental Toughness: Coping Through A Mid-Season Slump

  1. jonmsorensen says:

    Sounds like Bura was dealing with quite the mental struggle last season. Hope he can figure things out. It’s great the Caps have help on staff.

  2. Diane Doyle says:

    Bura possibly needing foot surgery. I wonder if he actually did get the surgery after the World Champs. If anything, it’s almost a cliche that everyone is injured by the time it’s the playoffs and more banged up the further they are in the playoffs.

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