What to do with David Booth?

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?

Yeah, him.

Well, he’s back. (Or, if you prefer the underdog angle: Andrew Ebbett is on waivers.)

A season ago, many were giddy that the Canucks were able to ship out damaged goods Mikael Samuelsson and German-what’s-his-name (footnote: Marco Sturm) for a young and fast talent named David Booth. 

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.

  • KleptoKlown

    good article, but I think the article should’ve been titled ‘What to do with the 4 2nd/3rd Line players the Canucks have, since I’d never put Booth anywhere but beside Kesler.
    I really don’t know how all this is supposed to shake out. Higgins, Hansen, Raymond, Kassian all aren’t 4th line players, but one of them will have to play there with the current roster…
    But maybe this is a short-lived discussion, since i’m not sure whether AV is comfortable with having Schroeder play the 3rd line C come playoff time!

    Questions over questions! Will be interesting to see, since the 3rd Line Center discussion has unfortunately gotten more important because of Manny Malhotras injury!

  • Marshall

    I would suggest trying Kassian with Booth and Kesler on L2, Keep L3 in tact as they have been playing well together, and use Lappy, Higgins and Weise as your heavy checking enabler line. Lapierre has pulled it off before and you keep Zack out of his own end. That said the AV line blender will make this a moot conversation by 8:15 of the first.

  • BrudnySeaby

    Agreed with the benefit or the math approach towards analysing hockey or the beautiful game.

    However, I think in light of said mathematical approach a statement like “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.” would benefit from more analyses.

    Because “6 shots for and 4 shots against ” doesn’t tell the entire story. What if Booth had poor defensive coverage and the 4 shots against are always high-quality chances for the opponent? Whereas the 6 shots for are low percentage shots?

    Sorry for nitpicking here!

  • Marshall

    Burrows is a better defensive winger. I can’t argue
    your stats but booth has never been a very good
    plus minus player. The fact the coaching staff
    doesn’t use him on the pk and your stats suggest
    he may back check well and help defensively that
    way, but lose coverage once the opponent has
    established pressure in the offensive zone.

  • KleptoKlown

    Raymond and Schroeder being the odd men out makes the most sense. Schroeder is playing beyond his potential right now, and doesn’t really fit the mold of a 3rd line center. Raymond is playing his best puck since 2009-2010, but is an UFA at seasons end. If I were him, I would be less inclined to give the Canucks a discount considering the Canucks reduced his salary this year.

    I don’t think you’re going to see a higher trade value for these 2 guys.





  • I’m stoked for Booth coming back. We’re going to be so deep, like Detroit in its prime deep! We have a balanced and strong top 6 D. Our 4th line will potentially feature Lapierre, Kassian and Weise. Kassian has at least 2nd line talent and I think Lapierre would be a 3rd liner on a lot of teams which leaves Weise as the only 4th liner on our team when everyone is healthy! That’s awesome, plus we have 2 #1 goalies. My only concern would be team grit but that’s always the fear with the Canucks anyway, plus, if the rules are called properly it shouldn’t be a problem that our powerplay can’t handle. I don’t even know what we could get in a Luongo trade that we would need right now, maybe a genuine #1 D man but none of those are for sale right now… I know we’re on a two game losing streak and I should be panicking like only a Canuck fan can but I really truly believe/wish/hope that this could be our year!! The last time we were this deep we went to the finals!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Don’t trust Kassian in his own zone and unless we get a proper 3rd line C, Kesler will continue do do a lot of defensive work. Can’t break up the top line, so Kassian should go to the 3rd where he could be slightly sheltered with Schroeder. Out of the rest, Raymond deserves a look on the 2nd line with Booth, leaving one of Higgins/Hansen on the 4th.

  • Kassian is a beast and I would love to see him tried out with Kesler and Booth.
    It’s actually frustrating to think about, but Higgins to the fourth would be my vote.
    I’d don’t know what is going on with his groin but in my dream world a fourth line of Higgins, Lappy and Pinizzotto would be unreal. (I’m sure no one agrees)