It’s getting to be that time of year. Washington Capitals players are beginning to wrap up their vacations and off-season commitments and begin to set their sights on returning to District for the 2022-23 season.
Capitals left-winger Anthony Mantha made one his final off-season public appearances at the Serge Savard’s Golf Tournament at the Golf Le Mirage in Terrebonne (Québec) Canada on Tuesday. Mantha spends a significant part of his off-season in the Montreal area.
Mantha held a brief media availability as part of the event. He was asked about the injuries and the projected lengthy absences of Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson. Backstrom underwent hip surgery in June and is expected to be out for most, if not all of the regular season. Wilson underwent knee surgery in May and is expected to be out 6-8 months.
“I’m going to have to ‘step up’, for sure,” said Mantha. “Backstrom, Wilson (we) will miss them at the beginning of the year. I will have a more important role and I will give my best for the team…I wish myself 82 games this year and to have the ‘fire power’ necessary to help the team.”
Mantha dealt with his own long-term injury last season, missing most of the regular season after undergoing shoulder surgery last fall. He would rehab in time to make the end of the regular season and all of the Capitals postseason, but the return was challenging for Mantha.
“The return was good. It was mentally difficult for four months. Playing before the summer did good, mentally,” confessed Mantha in his interview with reporter Jean-Christophe Bertrand.
During the off-season, the Capitals made wholesale changes in front of the net. Mantha said that he and his teammates were taken by surprise by the departure of Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov.
“We were surprised. Not in shock, but surprised by two changes rather than one. It’s only positive. We acquired a goalkeeper who won the Stanley Cup last year, it’s a lot of experience. It is confidence that he will bring in front of the net.”
At 27, Mantha is aware that he can offer some of his experience to a promising young hopeful like fellow Quebec’er Hendrix Lapierre, who will try to establish himself with the Capitals. Mantha admitted that Luke Glendening played a mentoring role when he joined the NHL.
“He’s a very fast guy,” said Mantha of Lapierre. “If Backstrom can’t start the year, it creates a hole in the center. It is up to Hendrix to take the chance and prove that he can fill a hole in the team.”
The annual tournament also paid tribute to the late Guy Lafleur who passed away this year. Many of Lafleur’s teammates were on hand, including his former linemates Steve Shutt and Jacques Lemaire.
By Jon Sorensen