Has The Light Bulb Finally Come On For Mark Mancari?
With 6 points (1g, 5a) in 12 games with the Buffalo Sabres, Mark Mancari is making the most of his time on the third line with Paul Gaustad and Nathan Gerbe and also limited power play time. But it’s his play away from the puck that has been a revelation about Mancari this season. Has the switch finally flipped or will he disappear again as he always has?
First, the stats. Mark Mancari was drafted in the 7th round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. In his junior season in the OHL, he became a point per game player and that status lasted through his final season and into the Memorial Cup playoffs. He made the jump to the AHL in 2005 and has enjoyed a perennial growth in production since his rookie season (42 pts in 05/06, 57 pts in both 06/07 and 07/08, 67 pts in 08/09, 74 pts in 09/10). His numbers will dip this season due to the probability that he will finish the season in Buffalo instead of with Portland, where he was 64 points on the season and is their leading scorer.
Mancari is physically gifted with size (6’3″, 225lbs) and a monstrous shot (AHL record of 103 mph), but his effort is enigmatic. Whereas in the AHL he is a regular all-star and workhorse, he’s never been able to find that extra gear during training camp or his call-ups that allows him to remain in the NHL. It’s a problem that has plagued him since his first stint in the NHL in 06/07 when he played three games. When pundits and fans alike discuss his shortcomings, it always comes down to one problem area: his skating, which after a few games seems to take place in sand or Quikrete.
After a number of fans had given up on him, it seemed the Sabres’ brass did as well when Luke Adam and Paul Byron were both called up at different times in favor of Mancari. When tabbed to fill an injury-opened roster hole, he brought with him something Sabres fans weren’t ready for – defensive play.
In the eleven games he’s played this season, mostly with Goose and Gerbe, he’s brought a two-way game that most fans probably didn’t know existed. Maybe Kevin Dineen’s coaching finally fixed was was broken in Mancari and maybe he just realized he’s got no more chances to make the NHL (or maybe both?), but Mancari is playing strong defensive hockey in addition to the scoring he’s put up in a non-scoring role. It still remains to be seen if he vanishes again in the next 2-3 games, but if he manages to keep productive and active both with and without the puck, he might – MIGHT – make a name for himself in this league yet.