Under normal circumstances, I’d say it’s hard not to feel bad for David Booth, what with the terrible luck he’s faced as a Canuck. But as we’ve covered extensively on this website, people really dislike him, be it for his exorbitant contract, his outspoken faith, his affinity for hunting, his lack of production, or all of the above. On Monday, when we suggested that the lack of news about Booth was an indication he might be out for the season with an ankle injury (which appears to be the case), one follower responded, “Karma!” as though Booth deserved a season-ending injury. That’s just absurd to me, but I don’t think that follower was alone in his thinking.
Still, if you can put aside for a moment the intense dislike that orbits Booth like a small, mostly unfair, slightly irrational moon, then it’s hard not to feel bad for him. After all, the winger has been plagued by rotten fortune since he was acquired last fall.
First there was the knee-on-knee collision with Colorado’s Kevin Porter, for which Porter missed four games to suspension but Booth missed 18 with an MCL injury. In the 62 games he did play, Booth put up 16 goals for a 20-goal pace, a nice, round number that would have earned him much softer treatment from the Vancouver faithful had he hit it, but thanks to the injury, he didn’t, and hockey fans aren’t in the business of giving credit for projected scoring. The raw fact was that Booth earned $4.2 million for 16 goals. That wasn’t good enough.
His sophomore campaign has been plagued with even more injury trouble. After the lockout (during which Booth did little to ingratiate himself to Canuck fans, filling his timeline with evangelical platitudes and kill shots), Booth strained his groin in the team’s first practice. He missed 15 games.
Then, after returning for 12, Booth sprained his ankle Saturday versus the Detroit Red Wings. According to the Canucks, he’s now out “indefinitely”.
You can see the injury occur at 6:30 of this highlight package, when a hook and a hold from Brendan Smith (pictured above, hooking and holding Booth) causes the Canuck winger to be yanked backwards, twisting his leg.
And just like that, Booth’s season appears to be over.
But with Booth’s bad luck leading to a second abbreviated and unproductive season, and with the cap coming down prior to next year, the admittedly overpaid Booth makes a lot of sense as a buyout candidate. Since he doesn’t appear to be coming back in 2013, we now now face the [joyous, for some] possibility that Booth has played his last game as a Vancouver Canuck.
Is it possible that his tenure as a Vancouver Canuck ends this way, with nothing to show for his time but a hat trick of lower body injuries and the carcass of Falcor?
I don’t think so. With the cap falling to around $64 million next season, the Canucks are going to have to make some tough decisions about who stays and who goes, but and I suspect one of those decisions will be to keep David Booth, for three reasons.
1 | They can afford it.
The club has $60 million committed for next year, and will likely be able to pare that down to $55 million with the inevitable trade of Roberto Luongo. No doubt they’ll do their best to re-sign a few of their impending unrestricted free agents — my money’s on Mason Raymond and Chris Higgins — but that should still leave room to fit Booth under the cap.
If they need to free up any more money, I suspect they’ll look to Keith Ballard as a buyout option long before Booth.
2 | He’s still better than you think.
Booth continues to do good things when he plays, even if he has struggled to do the best thing, which is score. As we’ve said many times, Booth possesses the puck like a champion, tilting the ice in the Canucks’ favour when he’s on it. Possession matters, since it leads to scoring chances for and limits scoring chances against.
Plus, I’m sure the club would be able to capitalize much more readily on the chances for if Booth could ever share the ice with a healthy and more offensively punchy Ryan Kesler for any amount of time. Kesler’s injury troubles have mirrored Booth’s in a lot of ways, but when they played together last season, they were excellent.
That in mind, I don’t think the Canucks are as troubled by Booth’s troubles this season as the fans are.
3 | They already have him.
Even with the cap going down, expect NHL salaries for depth scorers to continue to increase. If the Canucks buy Booth out, they’ll likely be forced to spend about the same amount to replace him on the free agent market — if they can even find an appropriate replacement in a market that’s looking rail-thin.
In the end, and I’m sure the God-fearing Booth will hate this colloquialism, the Canucks will likely decide that, rather than test a seller’s market, it’s better to stick with the devil you know.
All told, I’m fully prepared to eat my words here and I’m sure many of you hope that I do, but I think Booth will get a third crack at a full season with the Canucks in 2013-14.Tags: david booth