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.Tags: david booth, John Tortorella