It's only been two games since Mark Mancari was called up from the Portland Pirates but he has already made an impact. He has been the best player on the ice for the Sabres and he scored his first NHL goal in a 4-2 loss to the Islanders on Saturday night. His goal ended a Sabres scoring streak that lasted nearly two games. He also led the Sabres with seven shots-on-goal Saturday night and he had two or three good scoring chances.
Mancari has already proven himself at the AHL level this season and in the past. Before being called up, he had 11 goals and 14 assists in 14 games played. He has produced in the past as well with 21 goals last season and 23 goals on 2006-2007.
In addition to his offensive production he also brings size and strength to the lineup. He is listed at 6'4" and 225 pounds and he uses his size to drive the net. He is an imposing figure for opposing defenses to deal with when he is playing at his best. Actually, he is everything we thought we had in Drew Stafford.
Mancari brings plenty of tools to the game including a howitzer from the point. Mancari won the hardest shot competition at the AHL all-star game last season with a shot that registered 102.4 MPH. He has too many tools to be sent back to Portland.
If Mancari is indeed ready to make a permanent jump to the NHL it will leave the Sabres with an interesting dilema. In the short term they just need to continue to scratch one player from the lineup but at some point Ales Kotalik and Tim Connolly will be healthy. It will leave the Sabres with one too many players on the roster and someone will need to go.
The Sabres options are limited because only Patrick Kaleta and Clarke MacArthur can be sent back and forth freely between Buffalo and Portland. It is unlikely the Sabres would send Kaleta down because he brings energy to the team and forces opponents off their game. Kaleta may be used as a short term option but do not see him spending a considerable ammount of time in Portland. Before the season began, Clarke MacArthur was an easy pick to send down but he has proven himself to be NHL ready. In the first couple of weeks he was the Sabres best player offensively (well behind Thomas Vanek anyway).
If this is indeed correct the only options are to place a player on waivers or try to make a trade. I usually don't subscribe to the trade theory but this time may be different. Thanksgiving is generally when teams evaluate their team and make changes...the Sabres can't be pleased with what they see.
The candidates for trade are the same guys we have talked about since before the season began...
Likely Trade Candidates
- Max Afinogenov - The most likely of all candidates. He was rumored to be on the market before the season began but the Sabres never pulled the trigger. It's possible that the Sabres were asking too much for Max based on potential instead of production but that has changed. The Sabres, specifically Lindy Ruff, seem to have run out of patience for Max and put him in the press box the last two games. Max continues to be dangerous every tim ehe touches the puck. The problem is that he is more dangerous to the Sabres than he is to the opponent.
- Drew Stafford - Stafford becomes a candidate for a number of reasons. He is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, the Sabres can match any offer he gets but they may not feel they will be able to. In addition, his slow start to the season has found him in the press box watching on a couple of occasions and Lindy does not seem enamored with his play. Stafford may be a higher value on the open market than Max will because he is much younger and has a bigger upside.
- Henrik Tallinder - It is unlikely the Sabres would try to trade Tallinder but it is amazing to see how far he has declined in just two seasons. Two years ago "Big Hank" teamed with Toni Lydman to form the Sabres tope defensive pair and this year he has found himself as a healthy scratch. Tallinder would probably get value on the open market but will likely not be traded unless he was packaged with a forward and another defenseman came back in the deal. The Sabres have very little blue-line depth and would probably not risk trading some of it away.