David Booth returns, Andrew Ebbett returns to the minors

Hey guys, you won’t forget about me, right? Guys? GUYS?

The Canucks are going to be in a very strange and unfamiliar situation on Tuesday: everyone will be healthy. Or, at least, as healthy as they can possibly be this season, considering Manny Malhotra is evidently done. On Sunday night, Alain Vigneault made the announcement that David Booth was cleared to play and would be back in the lineup at some point during the Canucks’ upcoming four-game road trip.

Astonishingly, in the time it took Ryan Kesler and David Booth to return to game action, no one else on the roster suffered a new injury, meaning the Canucks needed to clear a roster spot to reincorporate the shoot-first winger. With Jordan Schroeder playing well, that left three options: Andrew Ebbett, Andrew Alberts, and Cam Barker.

Because the Canucks are committed to keeping both Alberts and Barker in the package, where they’ll be worth more someday, Ebbett was placed on waivers Monday. Like the rest of the Canucks, he’ll be heading to Chicago. Unlike the rest of the Canucks, he’ll be staying there, so  long as he doesn’t get picked up by another team.

Let’s take a look at what Booth’s health means for the Canucks (beyond the fact that they’ll be able to play him now).

Simply put, it’s good news.

Regardless of what you think of his hobbies, personal beliefs, and Twitter persona, he makes the Canucks a better team. More importantly, he makes Ryan Kesler a more effective player. For all the talk last season of Kesler needing to use his linemates more, when Kesler was with Booth, the Canucks tilted the ice in their favour. The Canucks can only hope that Booth and Kesler can do this again soon. Getting the American Express line of Booth, Kesler, and Chris Higgins back together might help.

Unfortunately, if they do this, it will means a demotion for Zack Kassian, who is still tied for the Canucks’ goal-scoring lead despite a 7-game dry spell. On Sunday, Kassian was briefly shuffled down to the fourth line, with Dale Weise taking a couple shifts with Kesler and Higgins. If Booth returns Tuesday against the Blackhawks, Kassian will likely find himself on the fourth line again, as Vigneault seems to like the trio of Jordan Schroeder, Jannik Hansen, and Mason Raymond, and still seems allergic to playing two raw prospects in Kassian and Schroeder on the same line.

Quite frankly, Kassian deserves the demotion, as he’s made some poor decisions in the defensive zone — a guaranteed way to earn Vigneault’s ire. Even with the Wolves, however, Kassian was streaky, so it seems likely that he’ll earn his way back up the lineup in the future. Hopefully on the fourth line, he’ll also start taking the body more and rediscover his defensive game, which is when he seems to find success offensively as well.

With Ebbett gone, the Canucks will have just four centres on the active roster, with Aaron Volpatti as the thirteenth forward, (provided he doesn’t remain in the lineup due to a paperwork error).

Volpatti has managed to earn his spot on the Canucks, and it’s significant that he wasn’t considered for the trip on the waiver wire. He currently leads the Canucks in penalty minutes and is tied with Maxim Lapierre for the team lead in hits, while still holding his own in terms of puck possession. He isn’t, however, as good an option as Weise or Kassian.

By not waiving Alberts or Barker, the Canucks will continue to carry eight defencemen on the roster. They seem wary of injuries on the blueline, which is understandable given the past several seasons. It’s surprisingly that we’re over a quarter of the way through the season without Alberts or Barker needing to step into the lineup, but the Canucks are wise not to count on that good fortune to continue.

With all hands on deck, the Canucks have an impressive and diverse lineup that should give opposing coaches fits. They’ll have the puck possession style of the top line, a powerful two-way line, a speedy third line, and a defensively responsible fourth line with a pinch of scoring punch.

Of course, it’ll be up to the players to make what looks good on paper look good on the ice.

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18 comments

  1. DanD
    February 18, 2013

    Nice! Good to have him back!

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  2. Brent
    February 18, 2013

    Do we want Booth to come back against Chicago? I know Kesler has played great right away, certainly offensively anyway, but do we want to take a chance with Booth? Wouldn’t it be better to start him against the Stars?

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  3. TubaNat
    February 18, 2013

    Don’t ask me exactly why but I love Booth, and I’m very happy he’s back!

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  4. akidd
    February 18, 2013

    “booth makes kesler a more effective player.”

    really? it seems to me that last year’s kesler was the least effective that he’d been for quite a while. and while i don’t disagree that young kassian may have a few things to learn defensively, i see him as a huge upgrade offensively. in fact if kesler had potted the beautiful set-up from kassian vs the stars people would be singing a completely different tune.

    to play kassian on the 4th line is to squander him. some guys, guys like kassian, schroeder and hodgson, need to playing with better players in order to blossom.

    other guys, like booth, just get drafted high and ride that for the rest of their careers. just what has booth done to earn his 4.5 mil per? where are the numbers? where are the results? the excuse that he was playing on a bad team with the panthers no longer holds. how does a guy get so much primetime icetime with a president’s cup winner, put up measly numbers and still be considered an effective player?

    it boggles the mind.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      February 18, 2013

      Booth was drafted late in the second round. Kassian, Schroeder, and Hodgson were all first round draft picks. So why aren’t they riding that so far in their careers?

      As for numbers, Booth has played three full seasons without any major injuries and he scored 20+ goals in all three, with a career-high of 31. In 2009-10, when his season was shortened to 28 games with a concussion from a blindside hit, he had 8 goals, a 23-goal pace. Last season he played 62 games, missing a bunch thanks to a dirty knee-on-knee hit. He scored 16 goals – a 21-goal pace.

      I won’t really argue that he’s overpaid, really, but Booth has a $4.25 million cap hit, a contract he signed after 60 points in 72 games. At the time, that certainly seemed like fair value and the Panthers couldn’t predict that he’d get a concussion the next season. Comparable contracts include Joffrey Lupul and Loui Eriksson, but also guys like Jakub Voracek, James Van Reimsdyk, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Scott Hartnell, and Kris Versteeg. Versteeg is actually an interesting comparable, as he’s basically a 20+ goalscorer like Booth and has had similar point totals.

      Of the others, Lupul surprised everyone by becoming a first line forward in Toronto and Eriksson is underpaid, though he’s only cracked 30 goals once. Voracek has never scored 20 goals in the NHL and cracked 50 points once. Van Reimsdyk has one season with 20+ goals, though he’s gotten off to a great start to this season.

      Callahan has similar point totals to Booth. Dubinsky has two 20+ goal seasons, but scored just 10 last season, albeit in a more defensive role. Hartnell has generally been a 20+ goal scorer in his career, with one 30 goal season, prior to a massive 37-goal season last year, helped along by a career year from Claude Giroux.

      Basically, what I’m saying is that for $4.25 million in the NHL, you’re generally going to get a guy who scores 20-30 goals and 40-50 points. That’s David Booth. If you think he’s ineffective, that’s on you, not him.

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      • akidd
        February 18, 2013

        nice reply. ouch. i shoulda checked his draft postiton. egg meet face.

        still, he didn’t score 20-30 goals. he scored 16 goals. pro-rate away but i’m still going to wait for him to hit an actual 25 goals in the western conference before declaring him good value. pre-concussion in the southeast is a different time and place.

        i see, as you’ve heard before, booth as an energetic skater who doesn’t have much of a shot, can’t pass, and doesn’t hit that much. he doesn’t think/see the ice or his teammates that well. basically his brain hasn’t caught up to his legs.

        there is a much smaller sample size for kassian but so far,i like the way he sees the ice. he makes nice passes, has a good shot and scoring instinct and uses his big body well. sure, he has to earn his icetime but i just think it would be a shame and a waste to see his confidence eroded on the 4th line.

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        • Daniel Wagner
          February 18, 2013

          Seriously? You’re going to get on him for not scoring 20 goals when he missed 20 games, largely due to an injury entirely out of his control?

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          • akidd
            February 18, 2013

            i just want to see the numbers. so far, with a ton of ice time, he’s scored 16 goals(and 13 assists, 14 assists if count the playoffs) as a canuck. if he wants to improve on that he can go ahead and do it. i’m all for it.

            i just won’t agree with the narrative that booth is kesler’s most effective linemate until booth actually proves it with real production.

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            • Frank N
              February 18, 2013

              @ Akidd. You can check Booth’s numbers in this blogpost. Kesler, Higgins and Booth made each other better last season.
              http://canucksarmy.com/2013/2/18/what-to-do-with-david-booth

              I would like to see a Booth-Kesler-Kassian line. Keep Kassian on the 2nd line so he get’s valuable minutes and can learn how to play while actually playing. This will also keep the Schroeder line (Raymond-Schroeder-Hansen) intact which has been pretty good lately. Higgins-Lapierre-Weise/Volpatti can form the 4th line; even though Higgins is too good to be just a 4th liner. But AV won’t hesitate to move him up or down anyway so that will be fine.

              Mostly though I think Kassian should be put in a position to succeed during the regular season as much as possible and as long as it doesn’t clearly cost the Canucks points so that he learns how to play well. Young players need to play. Hopefully come play-off time, he will have learned what is expected of him and he can still contribute!

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              • akidd
                February 18, 2013

                thanks for the link, frank. but i’m sorry, i just don’t buy it. daniel has mentioned the possession numbers before and i didn’t buy it then either. i watched a lot of games last year and what i often saw was booth flying into the o-zone, not looking for his teammates and holding the puck until everyone was covered and his only option was to flutter a weak wrist on net from a bad angle. this happened over and over again. yet it works out positively for possession stats because the canucks get a shot on net and an o-zone faceoff.

                for 4.25 mil per booth needs to score goals. 16 goals and 13 assists in the regular season. 0 goals and one assist in the playoffs.

                it’s not that i think he doesn’t deserve another chance. it’s the revisionism regarding his sterling record that i object to.

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        • J21 (@Jyrki21)
          February 19, 2013

          You were probably thinking of Nathan Horton with the high draft position. I literally used to think they were the same person, being a power forward on a team I didn’t see much of.

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  5. Nee
    February 18, 2013

    “Volpatti has managed to earn his spot on the Canucks”

    Hey now, wasn’t it this very blog that said a few IWTG’s ago that Volpatti is so bad he taps his stick on the ice to know where he’s going? Hmmmmm?

    : P

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    • Daniel Wagner
      February 18, 2013

      Ha! Don’t mistake jokes for analysis! :)

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      • Nee
        February 18, 2013

        So you’re telling me that Evil Raymond isn’t real? :’ (

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        • Abby
          February 18, 2013

          aww, man. I was liking Evil Raymond, especially when he scores goals and cross checks.

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  6. Tengeresz
    February 18, 2013

    I agree with this article on many levels, and this is the exact forward line combo I was proposing should happen since the first few games of the season. My only quibble is a small addition (see below).

    I also think that playing with Yappy Lappy and our “Main Event” boxer will make Kassian a better tougher and more feared player in all three zones, possibly learning to draw penalties and be opportunistic on the breakout. Kassian is a great addition to the team, but I hope people don’t forget that he’s still a rookie who needs seasoning and the chance to play in different situations.

    Here’s the only thing that I think you should have added to the analysis:

    If Booth does not find his game after a few (three or four?) games, put Booth on the Fourth line and bring Kassian up to play with Kes & Higgy. Or, maybe, switch Hansen with Booth (although I’m loving the “Speed Kills” line). AV is pretty good at rewarding performance, and I think he should be patient but not TOO patent with Booth.

    As for the idea of demoting Higgins to the fourth line : Silly, just silly.

    It’s not that Higgy is too good for the fourth line, it’s that he fits really well with Kes. They are both true two way players and that is a very valuable thing on a team with three scoring lines and one shut-down line. The two of them should play together as much as possible, and find a winger who fits in with them by adding some more scoring without sacrificing the ability to take the tough opposition — hopefully Booth (and I’m optimistic), possibly the Kassassin, maybe Hansen.

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  7. J21 (@Jyrki21)
    February 19, 2013

    If ever Schroeder replaces Higgins on that line, I hereby advance-dub it “AmEx Gold”.

    Anyway, while I don’t think the Canucks are ever facing a serious risk of Andrew Ebbett being claimed on waivers (and there are no more 50% recall waivers under this CBA, right? Lessening the risk further), I would think Cam Barker would be the safer guy to send down anyway, especially because all of the defensemen really need to get in some playing time if they’re going to come into the lineup because of a sudden injury. Is anyone really comfortable with the idea of a guy like Barker or Alberts playing their first North American hockey game in over a year down the stretch drive because someone else went down?

    Which leads me to another point: I don’t like the NHL-wide refusal to rotate players in and out of the lineup like you see in other sports like soccer. Especially in a compressed season, I think everyone needs a break for down time / healing / watching from above, or whatever. If we could get away from the culture where a guy being scratched is “OMG! Coach’s doghouse!” and just understand that the team is better off with everyone playing a little bit, and some playing a little bit less than always, it would be nice if a guy like Alberts could get in a game here and there and give any of the defense regulars a rest. I guess this happens a bit with the 13th forward, but even there not a ton.

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  8. JDM
    February 19, 2013

    Sedin Sedin Burrows
    Booth Kesler Kassian
    Raymond Schroeder Hansen
    Higgins Lapierre Weise

    Lineup allows you to roll 4 lines and keep everyone’s minutes down. This is a compressed season and that counts. Basically the 4th line is a 4th line in name only – it’s really a 3rd/checking line. You essentially have a First Scoring Line (Sedins), a First Checking Line (Kesler), a Second Scoring Line (Schroeder) and a Second Checking Line (Lapierre).

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