Former Washington Capitals’ forward Jakub Vrana was ultimately dealt to the Detroit Red Wings back in April of 2021 because of issues with, and his performance under head coach Peter Laviolette. Anthony Mantha, the player the Capitals received in the trade for Vrana, just might be following a similar path.
Expected to be a top-6 forward, Mantha was demoted to the Capitals’ fourth line on Thursday. He logged 12:21 of ice time and recorded an assist in the Capitals 6-2 win over the Blue Jackets on Thursday night in his first game on the fourth line.
However, things further deteriorated for Mantha on Friday night against the Nashville Predators. He was on the ice for both of the Predators first two goals and as a result, saw his ice time take a severe hit. He logged just 5:47 through the first two periods and ended the game with a team-low 9:48. He was the only Capitals player with less than 10 minutes of ice time.
It’s always difficult to ascertain how a relationship between two people is going when you are not part of the relationship. We don’t know if Mantha is in Laviolette’s proverbial dog house, or if Laviolette just wants to see more from him. It likely a little of both.
Mantha, 28, doesn’t have bad stats so far this season. He has nine goals and 14 assists in the first 42 games this season. He’s 5th on the team in xGF% (53.99%) and +3.47 in expected goals differential (xGF – xGA). But he’s not a fourth liner. And he makes $5,700,000 per year.
Mantha is capable of more. He recorded 24 and 25 goals in his first two season’s with the Red Wings (2017-19), but is on pace for just 18 this season. Mantha’s numbers have fallen off in recent seasons, but that has been mostly due to injuries.
What this means going forward is up for debate. Laviolette clearly wants more from Mantha, but will he get it? Will Mantha respond positively to this week’s demotion and reduced minutes? It’s up to him.
The Capitals will need to make significant roster adjustments, possibly in the next 24 hours, with the return of Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson. What will this mean for Mantha? Maybe nothing, but he’s not a fourth liner, and that will change one way or the other.
By Jon Sorensen