Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has never hid the fact he likes having a player on the ice, at least in the regular season, who will stick up for teammates and isn’t afraid to drop his gloves. The game has steered away from that specific kind of player more and more in recent years, and Quenneville has acknowledged that. Instead, what Quenneville has tried to do is have a player who is willing to be that physical presence, but also be dependable enough to play a defensive fourth-line winger role.
Quenneville lost that player in Bollig, but the Blackhawks may have his replacement already in the organization. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said this past weekend 6-foot-4, 220-pound Brandon Mashinter had the potential to fill that role next season.
“There’s definitely value in having a player like that that can do some different things,” Bowman said on Saturday. “We were fortunate last year we made a trade that didn’t get a lot of attention. We traded Kyle Beach for Brandon Mashinter. He came into Rockford and played really well for us to the point where we re-signed him during the season to a two-year deal.
“Brandon is going to get a chance to see what he can do. He’s played in the NHL before, not in a big way. As a younger player he got some games in San Jose. We’re certainly going to give him every opportunity to show what he can do.”
The Blackhawks acquired the 25-year-old Mashinter in a trade with the New York Rangers in December of 2013. He has spent a bulk of his time in the AHL over the last five seasons, but appeared in 23 NHL games for the Sharks and Rangers.
Mashinter remained in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs for the rest of the season after the Blackhawks traded for him. He had seven goals, 14 assists and was a minus-8 in 47 games for the IceHogs. The Blackhawks signed him to a two-year extension in March. He has a $562,500 cap hit, according to capgeek.com.
“He came here 30, 35 games into the season, and he fit well,” IceHogs coach Ted Dent said in a recent phone interview. “He played a power forward type of game, up and down the wing, finishing checks, not afraid to go to the net, hard areas. He has a sneaky shot. He played on different lines, was always on one of our top three lines, though. I utilized him on the power play at times, net front. He also provided some toughness and protection for our younger players as well.
“Like most of our players in Rockford, I believe in a lot of them. I believe a lot of them could be in the NHL if given an opportunity. Mash is no different.”
Dent also coached Bollig with the IceHogs and saw some common qualities between the two players.
“I had Bollig for two-plus years in Rockford,” Dent said. “I think they have some similarities. They’re both left shots. I guess some people would say they both need to improve on their foot speed and skating. They both have the ability to finish checks and put pressure on opponents. They’ve both willing to protect teammates and stick up for teammates when they need to. Mash is bigger and has a longer reach.”
Blackhawks director of hockey administration and general manager of minor league affiliations Mark Bernard also gave Mashinter a positive review after the season.
“He’s another big body, more size in Rockford,” Bernard said. “He can not only put pucks in the net, but he adds size and doesn’t take bad penalties. He’s going to continue working on his skating. He has a very good shot. There’s a lot of nice pieces in his game. The reason we signed him is because those are the players everyone is looking for. That Brandon Bollig type of player, everyone is looking for that type of player.”