Listen to pretty much any sports executive long enough, and eventually they will refer to their organization or institution as some kind of "family." It's a way of imparting principles of loyalty and camaraderie to an industry that often ignores such things. But even when that word can be a sort of public relations ploy, many fans would probably agree with the sentiment to some degree.
If family is meant to symbolize feelings of connectedness and allegiance, then there's an undeniably familial aspect to fandom. It can be as small as that little nod you give to someone wearing a Hawks sweater on the street, or as substantial as thousands pouring into Wrigleyville to celebrate their team's latest triumph. The point is, we do this together.
But there's also a dirty little secret about families: they mean tolerating people you'd otherwise have no reason to be around. And over the years, the Blackhawks have insisted upon inviting unwanted guests to the party, hoisting these second cousins upon us even though we know there's basically nowhere this can go but down.
That's where Brandon Mashinter fits into this whole situation, at least for me.
With less than 10 days before the beginning of the regular season, Mashinter remains on the active roster and seems likely to stick. We all expected Coach Q would want someone to replace Brandon Bollig's human wreaking ball role, and from all indications, that man is Mashinter. For better or worse, his spot on the roster seems inevitable.
And generally speaking, it's probably for the worse. Mashinter, from a talent perspective, isn't remotely the team's best option for a fourth-line winger. Guys like Jeremy Morin and Joakim Nordstrom offer noticeably more offensive upside, and they're younger, too. Choosing Mashinter is effectively choosing a quasi-enforcer, someone who can ocassionally focus less on actual hockey and more on simply bruising as many dudes as possible over a limited period of time.
Personally, I don't like it. As a fan, I wish my team would stop with this stuff, and completely embrace its identity as a high-flying, high-scoring powerhouse. Some games demand more physicality than others, but the argument in favor of Mashinter involves a lot of antiquated cliches and little discussion of scoring/preventing goals. This is a player being brought in for matchups that don't necessarily exist. It's not like Ben Smith hides in the corner of the ice telling folks he'll tattle if someone hits him.
But this is The Blackhawks Family, and we don't always get to decide who's a part of it and who's not. Are we disappointed that Mashinter will make the team? Sure. Do we wish that someone like Morin or Teuvo Teravainen would gallop in, the sun blazing behind their back, and save the day? Yeah. That sounds about right.
We don't make those choices, though, and probably for some very good reasons. Quenneville has insisted upon doing things his way for a long time, and the results, well, they speak for themselves. This is most definitely a patriarchal family, and Quenneville is like the big, burly dad who always sits at the end of the table. Things were always going to go his way.
Still, that doesn't mean we'll withhold judgment or criticism of Mashinter's game. This is blogging, after all, and what's the point if we're not yelling about something? Yeah, if we're 15 games into the season and Super Mash Bro still hasn't scored his first goal, I probably won't be so nice. But at the end of the day, if he's a member of the family, then he's a member of the family.
Until he's cut, that is. I suppose that's where my family parallel ends.