The man with the Golden Flow, remember him?
Drove everyone nuts – and not just because of his hunting tweets?
The guy that seemed to always drive to the net, only not to score?
Well, he’s back. (Or, if you prefer the underdog angle: Andrew Ebbett is on waivers.)
Even when he went down with injury in early December, no one worried, he’d been scoring a bit; then he came back and kept scoring.
And then it was February and he apparently couldn’t score anymore.
So who are you, David Booth? What should the Canucks lineup look like when you return?
First a few numbers.
You’ll note that his shooting percentage last year wasn’t far off his number in 2008-09, when he bagged his career-high 31 goals. That season he took 3.41 shots per game. In 2011-12, he dropped to 2.6. Right away, we can see that like any sniper, he really does just need to shoot more. Or does he? The lowered shot rate in Vancouver could be an effect of ‘score effects’ – the reality that teams trailing really do shoot more than teams leading. Playing in ever-struggling Florida, it stands to reason that Booth spent a lot more time chasing the game than he did in Vancouver.
Whatever the reason, even at 2.6, he’s still shooting at a second-liner clip and that’s ok.
Then there’s his possession influence, something Cam Charron wrote about last year. Charron created this nifty chart:
That’s the old ‘AmEx line’ – we can see that David Booth is a 60 per cent shot player, meanging that 6 out of 10 shots directed on any net while he’s on the ice go towards the opponent’s net. That’s outstanding.
In the same piece, Charron also pointed out that Booth does an amazing job limiting shots against. This is a pretty impressive feat, something that we’ve been wrestling about for a while. Recently, I’ve been reading the excellent Soccernomics by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski; Kuper and Szymanski spend a long time talking about analytics in the beautiful game. One of the data they identify as being of immense value to teams is a player’s top sprinting speed and their ability to sustain that ability. Carlos Tevez, for instance, is able to sustain his top sprinting speed for an exceptional amount of time and he’s also able to repeat that output with great effectiveness. At the same time, he has a quantifiable defensive influence – he tracks back defensively far more than his replacements and suppresses opposing possession as a result.
I’ve got a feeling that David Booth hold a similar defensive ability. We know he’s a fast skater and we know that shots decrease when he’s on the ice. That’s a usefulness that flies under the radar.
So where should he be played? Most people are suggesting the obvious spot is to put him back with Kesler, in Zack Kassian’s spot. Against the Blues, Kassian played right wing, with Kesler at centre and Higgins on the left. Higgins, Kesler and Booth were the Amex line last year, after all.
But then what do you do with Kassian? Do you bump him down to the fourth line and sit down one of Dale Weise or Aaron Volpatti? The choice there is probably Volpatti – the two have similar numbers but Weise has played slightly tougher minutes (remember, he rode shotgun with Jordan Schroeder). So Kassian on the fourth line? It’s either that or he goes with Schroeder and Raymond, bumping Jannik Hansen down. But that’s not happening, is it?
The only other conceiveable change would be moving Raymond into the middle, putting some combination of Kassian, Hansen, Booth and Higgins on the wings while sliding Schroeder down to the fourth line.
In the end, we know a few things about David Booth. He’s a quality offensive player, he’s an amazing back checker and he makes players around him better.
Given that the Canucks are going to have to re-jig their faceoff structures in the wake of Manny Malhotra’s exit, playing Booth with Kesler makes a ton of sense. Kesler is going to carry a heavy defensive load; pairing him with the team’s best defensive winger is logical in that light.
The rest? Who knows. Someone is not going to be happy.