WOW: Mike Matheson Opens Up About His Mental Health Struggles

Published February 1, 2024 at 12:25

In the last few minutes, Jean-François Chaumont published a very interesting article regarding Mike Matheson and his journey in the NHL. Indeed, the defenseman made significant revelations about his challenging time with the Florida Panthers as well as his future with the Montreal Canadiens.

Looking Back at His Years with the Florida Panthers

Selected 23rd overall in the 2012 draft, Mike Matheson was destined for a promising future in the NHL. The defenseman, now 29 years old, had an excellent season with Boston College in the NCAA, accumulating a total of 25 points in 38 games in his last year at the college level.

However, the Tricolore's number 8 had to refine his skills in the American League, playing with the Portland Pirates in 2015-2016, before finally establishing himself in the NHL the following season. Despite a difficult season for the Panthers, Matheson demonstrated that he had the skills needed to succeed in the world's best league, recording 17 points in his rookie year.

However, although he accumulated 27 points in each of the following two campaigns, the young defenseman was behind Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad in the team's hierarchy, thus depriving him of precious minutes on the power play. Nonetheless, the first-round pick managed to stand out due to his exceptional mobility and his ease in supporting the offense.

Unfortunately, it was in his last year in Florida, in the 2019-2020 season, that everything drastically changed for him. Experiencing some defensive difficulties, Matheson was scratched from the lineup on multiple occasions, sometimes even being used as a forward by his head coach, Joel Quenneville.

He notably admitted that this year had been very difficult mentally, having experienced depressive episodes due to his poor performances. The defenseman simply no longer had the motivation to go to the arena, constantly unhappy with his level of play and the situation he had placed himself in.

"In my last year in Florida, I was in a dark place. Sometimes I found myself in the stands, I played games as a winger and I thought to myself, 'wow, things are not going well.'

There were days when I would get home and not be happy. I was really affected by my game. I was no longer the person I am. I was always disappointed, I had no energy, and I was probably experiencing depressive episodes. It was painful to wake up to go to the arena. I had no motivation. I knew it was my fault. I doubted myself, wondering if I was going to succeed in reaching the level I wanted to achieve." - Mike Matheson

Clearly, Matheson's career was not heading in the right direction.

A Trade That Completely Changed Everything for Matheson

However, a miraculous turnaround occurred the following season, offering the defenseman a chance for a fresh start. Indeed, the Florida Panthers traded Mike Matheson and forward Colton Sceviour to the Pittsburgh Penguins in return for Patrick Hornqvist.

Although he was joining a well-established team, the 29-year-old defenseman immediately acclimated to his new teammates and assistant coach, Todd Reirden. Behind Kristopher Letang, one of the NHL's best offensive defensemen, Mike Matheson had the opportunity to play on the second power-play unit, thus regaining confidence in his abilities.

He notably revealed that Todd Reirden played a major role in his development, indicating that he truly cared about his happiness and did everything in his power to help the defenseman unlock his potential. It was then that number 8 began to reach his full potential, becoming the well-known defenseman of today.

"I was traded in September. It was the year of the COVID return. I was watching videos with Todd from September. We talked once a week, and he gave me five sequences to watch. At the next meeting, we watched them together, and he gave me five more. In our conversations, we also talked about life in general, not just hockey. It was incredible. I had a coach who cared about my happiness. When I started playing with the Penguins, I felt like he already knew me. He knew what I needed to hear, whether negative or positive. I learned a lot from him, he restored my confidence." - Mike Matheson

Wow! We're really happy to see that Todd Reirden took him under his wing!

Not only did Mike Matheson start playing up to his talent again, but he also rediscovered the joy of going to the arena and playing in the National League. However, despite his excellent statistics (31 points in 74 games), the general manager of the Pens decided to trade him, sending him to the Montreal Canadiens in return for Jeff Petry and Ryan Poehling.

His Future with the Canadiens

While some Montreal fans were initially disappointed to see Jeff Petry leave the organization, Mike Matheson quickly made them forget the former number 26 by establishing himself as a true power-play quarterback. Since his arrival with the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge, Mike Matheson has proven to be one of the best offensive defensemen with a tally of 15 goals and 53 assists (68 points) in 97 games.

Currently in the penultimate season of his current contract, he admitted that he was very happy to have the opportunity to play for his childhood team, the Montreal Canadiens. He also added that it's a huge honor to wear the jersey of such a prestigious team every day, indicating that he would definitely like to end his career here.

"I'm just happy to be a player for the Canadiens. I always think back to the little guy who would have given absolutely everything to get this chance to play for the Canadiens. I just want to make the little guy inside me proud by working hard and playing good hockey.

I think it's a huge honor to wear the Canadiens jersey," said Matheson. "I would like to stay here until the end of my career." - Mike Matheson

Of course, he is fully aware of the reality of the NHL and the rebuilding process undertaken by Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton. Having experienced it in the past, he knows that a trade can happen at any time, especially since he could become a free agent at the end of the next season. However, having no control over such a possibility, Mike Matheson is not too worried about it, focusing only on his game and the positive impact he can have on the Canadiens' success.

"I haven't talked to Kent about this possibility. I think the organization is happy with my game. But I also know that management sometimes has difficult decisions to make. I don't control a trade. It wouldn't make sense to think about it too much." - Mike Matheson

It remains to be seen what Kent Hughes' plan is for his defenseman, but one thing is certain, Matheson is happy to be in Montreal and would definitely like to extend his association with the team.

For more details, we strongly invite you to read Jean-François Chaumont's article:

February 1   |   331 answers
WOW: Mike Matheson Opens Up About His Mental Health Struggles

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