Yesterday, I talked about why the Chicago Blackhawks shouldn't necessarily force Brandon Mashinter into the lineup just to replace the presence vacated by Brandon Bollig. That was mostly from the perspective that he doesn't bring the type of skill to the bottom six that some other forwards might be able to. Let's be real, though, any plea to keep Mashinter as far away from the lineup is going to fall on very deaf ears, given the coaching staff's insistence on having that type of player in the lineup.
Perhaps the largest reason that the Hawks should keep Mashinter out of the lineup is the fact that a fourth line without him in there could just be too much damn fun. In their scrimmage on Monday night, the Hawks rolled with a line that featured Jeremy Morin next to a familiar combination of Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith. There's still an entire preseason to go, and plenty can still change, but it's hard to imagine a fourth line that Hawks fans would love to see more than that trio.
Last year, the combination of Bollig-Kruger-Smith was constantly used after the top line. They didn't add much of anything to the stat sheet as far as offense is concerned, but they were an outstanding group a good deal of the time, even with Bollig in tow. They helped to shift momentum in the Hawks' favor, generating a strong forecheck and playing a strong defensive game from that front line.
Substituting Jeremy Morin in there for Bollig has the chance to add another level of excitement to that line. In Morin, you have a player who can play that physical game and bring a tenacious forecheck to the mix. Sure, his defense does leave a bit to be desired, but it's an improving element of his game. He brings big offensive upside, and has the potential to help that group become more of a threat offensively than they were with Bollig and would be with Mashinter. He can play the physical game necessary for that type of role as well.
When you add that to a line that already had as hardworking a center as there is, in Marcus Kruger, and a forward with a penchant for playing hard down in the corners and in front of the net in Ben Smith, there is potential for that type of group to provide a number of headaches for the opposition throughout the season. If Andrew Shaw is going to remain at center on that third line, the best possible alternative lies here with this group.
Such a grouping would get Jeremy Morin the playing time he's lusted for in the last couple years, while keeping a very capable duo together, in Kruger and Ben Smith. There's a reason that so many are clamoring for those three to make up the bottom line for the Blackhawks out of the gate: they'd simply be an absolute blast to watch.
If only the coaching staff shared our vision...
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.