Head coach Spencer Carbery hopes to have a successful first season in Washington, including leading the Capitals to the playoffs again after an uncharacteristic miss this past season. The Capitals’ return to success will depend, in part, on forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and Anthony Mantha, both of whom had less-than-stellar performances last season. However, during an interview on Capitals writer Mike Vogel’s podcast Break the Ice, coach Carbery seemed optimistic and detailed his plan to help get the players back on track.
Carbery noted that gathering information and player data is an essential first step. He plans to analyze their best performances and compare them to their most recent, weaker performances. Without seeing Kuznetsov’s and Mantha’s previous play firsthand, Spencer Carbery will rely on other members of the Capitals organization to help fill in his knowledge, as well as game film. Carbery says that he will “find out what’s made them successful in the past or what have they looked like when they’ve been at their best” and “watch the film and see the good of when they were at the top of their game.”
Kuznetsov and Mantha’s Play
While they were once reliable and solid players on the Capitals offense, both Kuznetsov and Mantha struggled greatly last season. Kuznetsov scored just 55 points in the 2022-2023 season, one of his lowest-scoring seasons to date. In 2021-2022, he created 78 points on offense, making last season’s decline rather shocking. Anthony Mantha saw a high decline in his points per game, dropping from an average of 0.62 to 0.40. Spencer Carbery believes that these declines in offense may be the result of an underlying issue– one he is working to address quickly.
Fresh coaching staff may be beneficial to the forwards, as neither of them fared well under former head coach Peter Laviolette. Evgeny Kuznetsov spent much of his time on the ice as part of the fourth line, which was new for him and definitely unexpected. Anthony Mantha, unfortunately, was dubbed a healthy scratch time and time again by Laviolette– an experience that lowered his confidence and belief in his play.
Mantha spoke candidly on this in an interview with Capitals Breakdown Day, indicating that he had hired “a mental coach” to work through his feelings and gain his confidence back. “Being scratched is a hard hit in the face,” he said. “You come back, and you try to get things going and get the confidence, and sometimes it’s way harder than people can imagine.” Alongside Spencer Carbery’s guidance and plan for a stronger return, Anthony Mantha noted that he was going to use this offseason for workouts, skating, and mental coaching to prepare himself to be a more reliable player in the 2023-2024 season.
While Evgeny Kuznetsov had previously expressed interest in being traded away from the Capitals organization, he has changed his tune and indicated a desire to stay with the team, at least for the upcoming season. Spencer Carbery noted that Kuznetsov would remain a key player in the lineup, calling him “a very, very important player for our team.” It appears that the Capitals will wait and see how the Russian forward plays in the fall, then make the decision regarding a trade from there.
Spencer Carbery is highly optimistic
As his interview with Mike Vogel continued, head coach Carbery spoke optimistically about the pair of forwards. He indicated that the two “want to do well, they want to be the best, they want to win games and help the Washington Capitals win a ton of games this year.” Motivation is a huge factor in a player’s success on the ice, and having a coach who believes in you and utilizes your strengths is part of that motivation. “I think they are going to come in and do a great job for our group, and I’m going to do everything I can to help them,” said Spencer Carbery. Hopefully, the 2023-2024 NHL season will be positive and offensively productive for Evgeny Kuznetsov, Anthony Mantha, and the Capitals as a whole.