David Booth has been performing well, even if his results don't show

Cam Charron
March 12 2013 03:09PM

David Booth makes an awful lot of money to shoot hockey pucks at everything but a hockey net. Angry Internet commenters have been making sure to let everybody know that David Booth is goal-less, although in the games I have watched, Booth has looked to generate a few chances off his stick inside the scoring zone. I have some images below that show this.

But that's not enough. Of course, fans expect results. No team in the last three seasons has been more economic with its shots as the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks have the highest team average PDO in the last three seasons. PDO, the addition of shooting and save percentage, is known to drive results in the short term. Given that the Canucks have had the second best average shooting percentage since the conclusion of the 2009 season (9.0%, only Washington is higher, with 9.2%. League median is 8.2%) and the highest save percentage, it's weird for the Canucks to be within a time of crisis where nothing is going in, nothing is staying out, and the team isn't even generating quality opportunities.

Ah, but David Booth has been.

Process, however, is a fickle 'maiden of an unpleasant variety'. The Canucks have the sixth best Fenwick Close in the NHL. By all indication, they're a pretty good hockey team, however they haven't looked that way. The powerplay isn't clicking and looks awful, but the team has actually out-shot the opposition 106-99 at even strength during this four-game losing streak. Some of that can be tacked to score effects, but they did outplay, I thought, Calgary, Los Angeles and Columbus only to turn in an ugly effort against Minnesota.

Booth symbolizes a lot wrong with the Canucks right now. He's dynamite at evens (as I'll show in the conclusion) and isn't getting rewarded for what he's putting in. I'm going to show his shots during the Canucks' four-game skid. I think he probably deserved a couple of goals for his efforts, but he's gotten some pretty bleak puck-luck. The fans hate him, the media hate him, people's expectations are warped, he basically symbolizes the Vancouver Canucks.

Shot No. 1 - VAN @ MIN 10:21 to go in the first

On this play, Booth lost the handle of the puck in the neutral zone and was forced to ice the puck. Jordan Schroeder hustled down and beat out the call. After cycling the puck to Kassian, he got the puck south to Booth. Matt Cullen's stick slowed down the pass and nicely teed it up to Booth, who got a very good shot away from a good area despite his stick breaking. With traffic in front, Niklas Backstrom had to make a pretty good stop. 

Shot No. 2 - VAN @ CBJ 18:38 to go in the first

Booth receives an outlet and cuts to the net against the only man back in Fedor Tyutin. He gets right to the front of the net but runs out of space as the rest of the players on the ice, coming in from the neutral zone, crash the net. Sergei Bobrovsky covers the rebound.

Shot No. 3 - VAN @ CBJ 19:52 to go in the second

Right off the opening draw, Booth brings in the puck over the blue line and is forced wide. He takes a weak shot from a bad angle which does create a rebound opportunity for Maxim Lapierre. High percentage play, but a low percentage scoring area. 

Shot No 4 - VAN @ CBJ 7:45 to go in the second

Booth, along with Kassian and Lapierre, Dan Hamhuis and Jason Garrison, are pinned in their own end for 30 seconds, although they don't give up any shot attempts even though Kassian turned it over on a clearing attempt. Eventually Kassian gets it up and sends it over to Booth, who gains the zone and can't drive against Adrian Aucoin. He doesn't get a very good shot off.

Shot No. 5 - VAN @ CBJ 7:34 to go in the second

Same shift, after the Jackets dump it out of the zone, Max Lapierre gets a turnover at centre and puts it up to Booth, who is one-on-two again and gets a pretty good snap shot away that Bobrovsky can't control. The Canucks recover the puck and get half of a line change before Columbus can get the puck out to centre.

Shot No. 6 - VAN @ CBJ 17:17 to go in the second

This comes in the sequence after the Henrik Sedin tying goal. Jared Boll gets a pretty good chance in front of Cory Schneider, but bobbles the puck and Chris Tanev recovers the rebound. He puts it up to Booth, who looked a bit like Phil Kessel on the zone entry, with a wild burst of speed through the neutral zone and cut wide on Nikita Nikitin. He had enough speed that he had the chance to pull the puck to his forehand, gets a good shot away before crashing into the net and ending the play.

Shot No. 7 - VAN vs. SJS 18:03 to go in the first

This screen shot highlights just how frustrating it is to count scoring chances in games where Sportsnet is broadcasting. They fill up the score bug with so much useless shit that prevents the viewer from making use of the bug's primary purpose: being able to tell the time and the score. Note on shot one that the Fox Minnesota broadcast was able to use another bar to show off its entirely useless "hits" stat on the game. 

Anyway, on this play, the Canucks recover the puck in their own end, Kassian headmans the puck to Booth, who gains the zone and gets away a snap shot from his off wing. Probably could have waited to set up in this instance since it looks like Kassian wants to get to the net. No bueno.

Shot No. 8 - VAN vs. SJS 1:50 to go in the second

Booth broke his stick on a tip play from the wing, darted back to the bench and as Lapierre and Kassian cycled the puck, broke in with speed to Antti Niemi's left, picked the puck from behind the goal-line and Niemi had to slide over to make a good stop. I couldn't tell exactly whether Booth actually was able to elevate the puck since the guy in the truck was too busy eating a hot dog to replay a scoring chance. The camera just followed Booth to the bench as Shorty and Garrett had nothing to fill the dead air, and we got to look at Rick Bowness and Mike Bernstein look at the scoreboard. It's almost like the chance never happened. 

Shot No. 9 - VAN @ CGY 8:16 to go in the first

Again, Booth gains the zone and has little support. After stopping up instead of driving to the net and realizing he has no play, Booth just fired a low weak shot off the pads of Danny Taylor. The ensuing rebound did set up a pretty good shift for the Canucks.

Shot No. 10 - VAN @ CGY 8:00 to go in the first

Booth was credited for a shot on goal by trying to dump the puck to the opposite corner. Danny Taylor couldn't corral it and the play did lead up to Kassian setting up Booth for a very near miss that was a good scoring chance. Wasn't a shot on net so isn't counted, although Booth would get another chance later in the shift… 

Shot No. 11 - VAN @ CGY 7:45 to go in the first

Kassian picks up the puck off the Booth miss, cycles it around and throws it at the net. Booth deflects it for a recorded SOG, but can't get to the rebound as Marc Giardano ties him up and the Canucks get a powerplay.

Shot No 12 - VAN @ CGY 5:13 to go in the first

Zone entry, cuts to net. Gets good backhander away. Stopped by Taylor.

Shot No 13 - VAN @ CGY 4:46 to go in the first

Same shift, Booth gets the puck high on the circle and a good wrist shot that handcuffs Taylor. Flames clear the zone, and again Booth is the guy who brings it back in before changing.

Here's a table of the shots taken:

  Zone Velocity Location Scoring Chance?
#1 vs. MIN High left circle High Low left pad Yes
#1 vs. CBJ Crease Fair Five hold Yes
#2 vs. CBJ Low right circle Low Low right pad No
#3 vs. CBJ Low left circle Low Low right pad No
#4 vs. CBJ High slot High High blocker No
#5 vs. CBJ Crease Fair Low blocker Yes
#1 vs. SJS Mid right circle Fair Low right pad No
#2 vs. SJS Left crease Fair Low left pad Yes
#1 vs. CGY Low left circle Low Low right pad No
#2 vs. CGY Right point Low High blocker No
#3 vs. CGY Crease Tipped Five hole No
#4 vs. CGY Low slot Fair High blocker Yes
#5 vs. CGY High slot High High glove No

Conclusion:

Half of Booth's shots have been pretty good. There's some pretty good variety in there. I think there's a chance for him to better use his teammates in these situations. Booth has 13 shots in the last four games and Zack Kassian has just seven. That said, in none of the shifts I watched did Kassian make a beeline for the net and Booth was left to his devices.

One important thing to note: these shots are all at even strength, and Booth does almost all the zone entry work on his line with Kassian and Lapierre. Eric T. of NHL Numbers has done the leg work that shows that the most important part of a player's game is his ability to gain the zone with possession. Once in the offensive zone, it hardly matters who is out there, but Booth's zone entry abilities (I'll test the theory by actually counting entries for a game or two sometime this season) seem to be very strong in most of these players. Booth is the one making the move and bringing the puck in. After the last shot against Calgary, he skated the puck in and established possession, rather than dump it in, which meant the Canucks were able to hold onto the puck even as he changes.

This is a results-oriented fan base, but I don't think that accepting Booth ought to be bought out is the way to go. He's done well by Thom Drance's scoring chance data and has some excellent defensive abilities, plus his ability to control the neutral zone, which makes him a valuable player.

Eventually, pucks will go in for him. Even last season, when he scored just 16 goals and sat out some time to injury, he recorded 16 goals over 56 games, which is worth 23 over 82 games. Seeing his shooting percentage at evens is 8.9% since 2008 (playing mostly in shot-counting-heavy Florida) and was 9.8% last season, 0 goals in 21 five-on-five shots is pretty low. That's especially considering he's had five good chances in the shots outlined above.

If the lack of results continues after more than nine games, sure, then he becomes a buyout target. But generally it takes about 30 or 40 games for a team's results to catch up to the processes. For a player it can be even more than that. You won't find a guy on the free agent wire who is as good at five-on-five as David Booth is at both ends. Even without the crazy Sedin zone starts, he is third on the team in Corsi/60, and his WOWY's are unreal. Zack Kassian goes from a 53.2% Corsi player to 59.6% when Booth is on the ice. They're taking a lot of shots together, and the goals will come.

I know fans prefer results, but the honest truth is that "playing well" doesn't correlate with "getting results" over a short span of games no matter what your eyes tell you. If your eyes are better than the numbers, though, then allow me to propose a number of proposition bets against you. I'll win most of them.

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#1 Senrik Hedin
March 12 2013, 03:50PM
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Some of these rumblings about Booth as a buyout candidate boggle my mind. As this piece points out, it will not be easy to find an upgrade over Booth for less money.

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#2 NarkusMaslund
March 13 2013, 06:57AM
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I would suspect that if Booth was on one of the other 29 teams in the league, a good percentage of the Canuck fanbase would be clamouring for GMMG to try to acquire him as a "buy-low" candidate. Perspective, and all that...

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#3 Daniel W.
March 13 2013, 09:16AM
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I sincerely hope they keep him. Even if not the most prolific of goal scorers, he's a really good and unlucky hockey player!

'This is a results-oriented fan base' Can you honestly say that somewhere out there, there's a process-oriented fan base? Don't believe that really exists!

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#4 chinook
March 13 2013, 01:57PM
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Nicely done. Like the other commenters, I'm a Booth fan. And I don't like to be negative but over the last several games the contrast in effectiveness between Booth and Kassian is dramatic. Considering both are power forwards. So much for the crap that AV doesn't give young players a chance.

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#5 goat10000
March 13 2013, 04:19PM
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I agree that part of the cause of Booth's apparent lack of production is who he's out there with.

Put him with a healthy Kesler and he looks a lot different (better).

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