Is David Booth ‘not doing enough to play’?

David Booth will be back in the lineup Thursday against the New Jersey Devils after he was a surprise healthy scratch on on Tuesday. Against the Islanders, John Tortorella elected to go with 7 defencemen instead, dressing Andrew Alberts, then only giving him one shift, 37 seconds long. It was seen as an indictment of Booth’s play to start the season. Also seen as an indictment of Booth’s play: Tortorella’s indictment of Booth’s play.

After the game, Tortorella spoke to the gathered media and addressed Booth’s stint in the press box and he didn’t mince words. He was about as frank as The Punisher, saying “He’s not doing enough to play. Plain and simple.”

The video of the post-game is definitely worth watching, mainly for the adorable moment at the beginning when Tortorella introduces two young girls, one of whom is facing some difficult health concerns. Clearly, Tortorella is familiar with them from his time with the Rangers.

The best part comes when Tortorella describes the game against the Islanders as a “cluster” and refrains from completing the word, likely because he has two young girls standing next to him. My advice is to go with “clustercuss”, which has precedent of being appropriate for children.

As for Booth, it’s an interesting statement and one with which I can’t help but disagree. Booth is absolutely doing enough to play, though that’s mainly because “enough to play” is a pretty low bar. Could Booth be doing more? Absolutely. Is he doing enough? I would argue that he is.

Ultimately, it’s Tortorella’s call. If this is about sending a message to a player who Tortorella expects to produce points, then it makes perfect sense. After all, Booth has just 1 goal and 2 assists in 10 games this season and is capable of more production, as he’s proven in the past. For a team that’s middle of the pack in goalscoring and needs production throughout the lineup, the Canucks need more out of Booth.

If Tortorella truly believes that the Canucks are a better team with Booth out of the lineup, however, then we have a pretty strong difference of opinion. While it is absolutely true that Booth is not scoring enough to justify his $4.25 million salary, that is the general manager’s concern and not the coach’s. The question for the coach is a simple one: does Booth help the Canucks win?

Obviously, scoring goals helps the Canucks win and Booth has not done enough in that category, but winning a hockey game isn’t about scoring: it’s about out-scoring.

When Booth has been on the ice at even-strength this season, the Canucks have out-shot their opponents 63 to 48. Only one Canuck has been on the ice for fewer shots against: Tom Sestito. The difference is that Sestito has barely played and the Canucks have been badly outshot when he’s been on the ice.

It’s better, perhaps, to look at shots in relation to ice time, as Booth has mainly skated on the third line. Booth has been on the ice for 7.620 shots against for every 20 minutes of ice time. Only two players have allowed fewer shots in their ice time: Jannik Hansen and Mike Santorelli.

While there is more value in scoring goals, preventing shots and keeping the puck in the offensive end of the ice clearly has some value. When Booth is on the ice, opponents don’t get a lot of shots on goal, which makes it a lot easier to keep the puck out of the goal.

Booth has done well on that front as well. He is the only Canuck who has yet to be on the ice for a goal against at even strength. The Canucks have outscored their opponents 3-0 with Booth on the ice at 5-on-5. That’s not as dramatic a ratio as Kevin Bieksa’s (13-3) or Henrik Sedin’s (14-6), but it still has value. It’s still enough for Booth to play.

One of the reasons the Canucks haven’t scored more is because they haven’t had many powerplay opportunities. They have just 29 powerplay opportunities through 11 games, an average of 2.64 per game, the lowest average in the league. Tortorella addressed that discrepancy along with what might be considered a subtle shot at Ryan Kesler’s reputation for embellishment, but if he does want to see more powerplays for the Canucks, he should consider playing Booth more.

Booth has drawn 4 penalties so far this season while committing no infractions himself. The only Canuck who has drawn more penalties is Daniel Sedin, with 5, but he’s also been called for 3 penalties. Partly thanks to Booth’s style of play, he’s adept at drawing penalties: last season, despite playing only 12 games, Booth drew 5. That means he’s drawn 9 penalties in his last 22 games. Again, while he hasn’t scored enough, there is value in drawing penalties.

I’m not talking about advanced stats, here. I’m not talking about Corsi, Fenwick, PDO, or any one of those other statistics that causes endless arguments about the value of such things in hockey. I’m just talking about shots, goals, and penalties.

With all that said, if Tortorella is frustrated with some aspect of Booth’s play — his work along the boards, his forechecking, or simply his lack of production — and decided to send a message that he expects more out of him, then that’s absolutely fine. Tortorella should expect more out of Booth, as should Canucks fans. For that matter, Booth should expect more out of himself. But if the criteria is doing “enough to play”, then Booth should have been in the lineup against the Islanders on Tuesday.

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18 comments

  1. A message
    October 24, 2013

    It was entirely about sending a message to Booth. Look at Lucic last year, healthy scratch for a game lit a fire under him, tore it up in the playoffs. Torts is clearly saying to Booth “we expect more”. Better to do that in vs a non-conference opponent in October and hopefully it kicks in.

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  2. Betty Henderson
    October 24, 2013

    Very good article. I hope David Booth has read it. Booth needs a Boost, some support that is. GO DAVID GO !

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  3. Brian
    October 24, 2013

    See? This is exactly what I’ve been saying. Ultimately, you have to look at the numbers. And the numbers show, he’s not playing that poorly. Not poorly enough to be sitting in the press box, to be sure.

    Are there intangibles that sometimes don’t show up in the stats? Yes, but do they outweigh the measurable? I think not.

    Look at the situation with Mason Raymond. “He falls down a lot.” OK…fine. But does he bring more to the team than another player who doesn’t fall down? Quite possibly. Yet, every GM passed on him, because of intangibles. If he falls down, but gets up and produces for the team, who cares?

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  4. Naturalmystic
    October 24, 2013

    buy out coming booth’s way…..

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  5. J21
    October 24, 2013

    This needed to be said. The idea that Booth shouldn’t be playing because he’s overpaid is irrational, and the idea that he shouldn’t be on the team because he’s overpaid only matters if you can replace him with a better, cheaper player. (Which, obviously, you can’t).

    If he brings a net positive to the lineup, with or without scoring goals, what’s the problem? He’s not hurting the team. It’s objectively better with him in the lineup. The only loss by having him there is an entirely hypothetical opportunity cost.

    That said, “The Canucks have outscored their opponents 3-0 with Booth on the ice at 5-on-5. That’s not as dramatic a ratio as Kevin Bieksa’s (13-3) or Henrik Sedin’s (14-6), but it still has value.

    Dude, dividing by zero is waaaaay more dramatic. I hear it ends the universe.

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  6. whisky jack
    October 24, 2013

    It’s an indubitably most
    Well presented pertinent post
    Espousing the essential truth
    As to the sitting of Mister Booth

    Regards the elbow to the head
    Which was misdeemed a dive instead
    Hand off the stick to give the shot
    That post deserves the flak it got

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  7. Qris
    October 24, 2013

    You and I had completely different interpretations of Tortorella’s answer. The specific question, as phrased, was, “Can you give us the reasoning why…?” (Torts cut the question off).

    What Tortorella did was, he cut the question off by shaking his head and saying “no.” He clearly didn’t want to talk about it. Torts is a lot more plain-spoken than other coaches, and I think the “No” was his real answer. Question: Can you tell us why he’s scratched? Answer: No.

    His follow up of “He’s not doing enough to play, plain and simple,” shouldn’t be taken as Tortorella’s reasoning, then. He’s refused to give the reason. Tortorella would rather keep what’s going on with Booth an internal matter — as far as the media and fans need to know, Booth isn’t doing what he needs to, that’s all. It sounded like it was essentially Tortorella’s way of saying, “That’s not your business.”

    One of the things I like about Tortorella is that he often tries to protect his players from the media. You can usually tell when he doesn’t want to talk about something — he’ll be short, he’ll look away immediately after answering, and oftentimes he’ll cut off the reporter mid-question, because he doesn’t want to talk on that subject.

    In this instance, I have to agree with him — if his issue were, for example, that Booth wasn’t hitting enough, then the media would run with that, and we’d still be hearing that narrative in the playoffs. As long as Torts keeps it internal, Booth has a chance to hear the message, improve, and never have to hear about the issue again.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      October 24, 2013

      I don’t really disagree with any of this, but he still said that Booth isn’t doing enough to play. He wasn’t specific in saying enough of what, exactly, so he leaves it open for interpretation. I took it as an opportunity to disagree with the decision to scratch him and show that Booth is contributing something to the team, even if it’s not all that he should be.

      But maybe it’s just a wake up call for Booth and maybe it’ll work. I’m not the coach, it’s not my call.

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      • Qris
        October 25, 2013

        Well, it’s either a wake-up call, or Tortorella legitimately believes that Alberts is more useful in the lineup than Booth — and Alberts’ use would disagree with that.

        The way Tortorella handled the question, it seemed “He’s not doing enough to play” was a platitude. It wasn’t supposed to mean anything. Torts has to at least appear to make nice with the media, so he couldn’t rightly say “None of your business.” He had to say something, but the thing he said seems sort of meaningless. He doesn’t define what “enough to play” means, and clearly that definition is different for each individual player, given that Booth had a similar ice time to Alberts from the press box.

        Even replacing him with a defenseman who didn’t play is interesting. If he replaced him with another forward, one could say “Booth is in danger of losing his job to this player.” Instead, Torts essentially elected to play a man short. Booth’s spot is still ostensibly there, so long as he rises to claim it. It’s probably a very specific message Torts is sending, rather than an overall comment on his play.

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  8. BBoone
    October 24, 2013

    He takes up too much cap room for a defensive winger.
    Coach was reminding him of that. His on ice decision making needs to reflect that.
    Having said that if this benching is more than a one off then the point made by PITB is right on
    And in sync with the point that the money is already spent on Booth.

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    • capalooma
      October 24, 2013

      He’s defensive?

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  9. Kenji
    October 24, 2013

    We can parse these coach comments far too microscopically.

    If Tortorella said “he’s not doing enough to play,” it doesn’t automatically follow that he meant “he’s not doing enough to merit his $4.2M salary,” or that any of your points in defence was even a consideration.

    I didn’t even hear it as “doing enough to play.” Sure, he’s a better skater than Robert Dirk was, or whoever. He’s not a liability, as you point out. He’s not making our eyes bleed with the hideousness of his performance. He is not to the Canucks what David Pratt is to the average intelligence of the Team 1040 talent.

    I think it is obvious that this is about his goalscoring performance. Torts didn’t say that, nor would I expect him to say it.

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  10. 19Yzerman19
    October 24, 2013

    In contrast, this is a good article. I can find no fault with any of these arguments and the conclusion is 100% correct from where I sit, despite being unpopular.

    Since Tuesday I’ve been hearing an awful lot of “it’s about time” sentiments and “this is exactly what Torts should have done”, a lot of “no free passes” and “earning ice time”.

    The thing is, that doesn’t make any sense. If Booth was making $1.5M against the cap no one would be batting an eye at his play. The reason people are upset is he’s making $4.25. That, however, is not currently a relevant consideration. He’ll be making that $4.25 on the ice or in the press box. It’s a sunk cost. After the season, consider if you’d be better off buying him out or whatever, but right now it’s simply a matter of “will we be better playing him or playing someone else instead”, and that’s a no brainer. A non-scoring David Booth is still better than 37 seconds of Andrew Alberts.

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  11. Aaron
    October 24, 2013

    I think the message is you are better than this and we (the Canucks) need you to be better! No one can doubt his play makes him more useful than Alberts. This was the right game to send a message and I just hope he got it loud and clear. Booth is an asset to the team, but he needs to do be better if he does not want to be bought out next year! It’s a weird situation for sure but I like the head on approach of Torts!

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  12. GeezMoney
    October 24, 2013

    He is categorically better than Alberts, Weise, Welsh and Whatever dressing as a forward. But I’d love someone to point out exactly where his defensive acumen shines through. I’m not sold at all on his ability to limit another team’s offense. And he doesn’t face the opponents top players, so he isn’t really keeping the offensive weapons at bay.

    My point is they need him to score goals. No one is asking him to put 40 in the net this season. But you are pretty much seeing a rinse repeat from last year: some hard work along the boards, second to loose pucks, and no offensive creativity.

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  13. Look who's injured again
    October 24, 2013

    SIGH.

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  14. akiddd
    October 24, 2013

    just let it go, daniel. booth sucks and that’s that. he’s not skilled enough and he’s not smart enough. torterella could see this right away, i’m still not sure why you can’t.

    please put away the darn numbers for a minute. every defense you had for him was a statistical one. just watch him play. he makes bad passes, he bobbles good passes, he makes poor decisions, etc, etc, etc. he basically ends almost every play once he gets near the puck. the reason he has such a high corsi is that once he loses the puck he gets off the ice and the next guy has to come over the boards for the shot against.

    i know you’ve hitched your wagon to this guy big time but seriously…get out while you still can. take your loss, own up to it and get along with the business of making better observations. booth is one of the only blights on your record. don’t let it drag you down too deep.

    or as it looks like booth is injured you could go with the “he’d be good(and i’d be right) if he could just stay healthy.” ya, right.

    all in good fun, of course. bit of a brutal post by me i suppose but i wouldn’t say anything if i didn’t care.:)

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  15. Collin
    October 25, 2013

    Press box duty for good/top-six forwards (Booth used to be and is currently paid like one) is usually done to for emotional/dedication reasons. Torts feels that Booth can provide more to the team (which we know is true given his past production), and the technique he is using is psychological. Making Booth a healthy scratch is supposed to shock him and challenge his character. Torts doesn’t care if Booth’s reaction is anger, pride, or spite just so long as the reaction involves his play improving.

    Torts sounded relatively excited to see what Booth was going to bring to the team during preseason press conferences. Torts has probably seen a fair amount of Booth over the years, whether from his days on the east coast or scouting as part of the US Olympic team. So, he’s probably seen Booth at his best and naturally expects a lot more from him. Probably even more than Canuck fans.

    Looking forward to seeing a more energized Booth when he gets back in the lineup.

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