When the Chicago Blackhawks jettisoned enforcer-but-not-really Brandon Bollig to the Calgary Flames earlier this summer, there was much rejoicing. The only thing that really put a damper on the excitement over such a overused -- yet almost entirely useless -- player was the fact that there appeared to be a slim chance that the Hawks weren't necessarily finished trying to plant someone in that Bollig role even after he was gone.
As training camp opened up over the weekend, it appears that's exactly what's happened. The Blackhawks reportedly told forward Brandon Mashinter to be ready to fight for a chance at a decent-sized role when camp and the exhibition season opened up, and that's where we stand now.
Mashinter was acquired from the New York Rangers for Kyle Beach, who is now supposedly backpacking around Europe or some activity farther away from an actual hockey arena. Unlike Bollig, though, there's actually some offensive upside here. He recorded a very solid 28 points in 47 games, with an even split between goals and assists, as a member of the Rockford Icehogs last year. He also spent 79 minutes in the box in those 47 tilts.
Although Mashinter has posted respectable numbers for a guy with his skill set throughout his minor league career, he hasn't recorded a point in 23 NHL games. It is a small sample size, of course. Nonetheless, the Blackhawks are a team that doesn't necessarily need to force a player like Mashinter into the lineup on a nightly basis.
This was something they did with Bollig last year, and it seemed like nothing short of an arm falling off was going to keep him out of the lineup, at the behest of Joel Quenneville. The Blackhawks are in a situation where they don't need to force that type of player into the lineup, especially when they already have a lineup that figures to shake out like this:
|Patrick Sharp||Jonathan Toews||Marian Hossa|
|Brandon Saad||Brad Richards||Patrick Kane|
|Bryan Bickell||Andrew Shaw||Kris Versteeg|
|Ben Smith||Marcus Kruger||Jeremy Morin|
Now, that is provided a trade of someone like Versteeg does not take place. Even so, that's a very, very good looking lineup. Who do you take out? With Morin's luck, he'd be the guy and Mashinter would assume Bollig's old role on that fourth line. Could be Versteeg, though, whether he's traded or he picks up where he left off in the playoffs. Bet your bottom dollar that Quenneville will find a way to jam Mashinter in there somehow.
Of course, he could come in and be a decent contributor on offense, while also serving the facepuncher role. In that case, sure, rotate him in and out of the lineup against those teams like St. Louis or Phoenix, where that type of presence is actually necessary. As long as it doesn't feel as forced upon us as Bollig did.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.