David Booth isn’t particularly popular among Canucks fans. His twin habits of hunting and tweeting about hunting have not endeared him to Vancouver’s more lovey-dovey population (that is, those who love doves and other assorted animals). Moreover, his conservative Christianity and tendency to express that conservative Christianity publicly were intolerable to those who preach tolerance.
Throughout the lockout, I saw calls for the Canucks to trade him immediately, while others suggested using one of the amnesty buyouts that the new CBA would surely provide to send him packing. The public sentiment appeared to be: Get. Him. Out of here.
Then the lockout ended. Hockey returned. Training camp started. And Booth came down with a groin strain and went in for an MRI on Monday. Suddenly, Booth wasn’t so easily dispensable, as Canucks fans remembered that with both Ryan Kesler and Booth injured, the Canucks are down to having just one-third of a second line.
Without hockey, it was easy to advocate getting rid of a player for non-hockey reasons. As soon as hockey came back, people seemed to remember that Booth is pretty good at it and the Canucks probably want him around.
I have my own opinions as to why people care so much about how Booth spends his free time, which I’ll get into in a later post, but the distaste over Booth essentially stems from his lifestyle choices, not his ability on the ice. While Booth’s 2011-12 season was not ideal, he was still tied for 5th in goal-scoring on the Canucks despite missing 20 games. When looking at possession statistics, Booth was clearly Kesler’s best linemate, and the line of Booth, Kesler, and Chris Higgins was extremely effective at even-strength.
Without Booth, the second line becomes some combination of Mason Raymond, Jordan Schroeder, Andrew Ebbett, Zack Kassian, and Chris Higgins. In other words, it becomes a gamble, with no assurances that the Canucks will be anything more than a one-line team.
In addition, Booth was one of the Canucks most effective players on the powerplay. Of players who received any significant amount of time on the powerplay last season, Booth was second to only Henrik Sedin in points-per-60-minutes.
It’s easy to see why there is concern, though it is a little premature at this point. There’s still no indication as to how severe Booth’s groin strain is, but the speculation is running rampant already. Partly fueled by a Jason Botchford’s insinuation that Booth didn’t train properly during the lockout, that he spent too much time state-hopping in search of animals to shoot, a number of Canucks fans have found reason to conveniently blame even this injury on Booth’s extended offseason activities.
Never mind that everyone expected there to be a massive string of injuries as training camps across the NHL started up. Never mind that Dan Hamhuis missed the first day of training camp with a groin strain despite skating regularly at UBC during the lockout. Clearly, Booth’s groin strain was a sign that he wasn’t skating during the lockout, despite saying exactly the opposite to Ben Kuzma of The Province.
Booth starts his day at 4 a.m. He works out and then skates before heading to the woods for a few hours of hunting. Then comes lunch, more hunting, dinner and lights out. So much for the lavish lifestyle of a well-paid pro. But that’s Booth. He’s wired in a much different way. He doesn’t own a home so the chameleon simply adapts to his surroundings — wherever they may be.
In that same article, Booth admits that he couldn’t “keep the pace I had in July and August in getting ready,” but you have to consider the source. Booth is an admitted fitness freak, to the point that Kevin Bieksa claimed he works out too much and the Canucks actually had to tell him to work out less. Not keeping the same pace as he normally would have before a training camp doesn’t mean the same thing for Booth that it might mean for others. In addition, he wasn’t just sitting around on a couch playing X-Box. He was hunting, which called for him to go for long hikes into the mountains.
“He told me he was on the ice four or five times a week,” Alain Vigneault told Ben Kuzma. “Sometimes, these things happen.” But Botchford poked a hole in Booth’s skating frequency by pointing out that the winger managed to find time for at least 18 flights during the lockout. “Maybe on one of those rinks they have in jet airplanes now?” Botchford quipped. We’d poke a hole in the hole-poking by pointing out that the lockout was 17 weeks. Even skating 5 times a week, that would have left Booth with 34 days to be in the air instead of on the ice. Skating 4 times a week, he’s got 51 off-days. And this is assuming he didn’t skate on a flight day, which hockey players have been known to do.
When he got back into Vancouver, Booth even went so far as to stay on the ice after the rest of the Canucks had left, skating lines. This is not a guy who was in bad shape.
It seems to me that Booth didn’t tweak his groin because he was unprepared; he tweaked his groin because sometimes groin tweaks happen, and because there are few turns as abrupt as the one from dispensable to indispensable.Tags: david booth