In a blowout win against Nashville on March 15th, David Booth scored his only goal of the 2012-2013 season. Late in the game, after turning the puck over inside the Predator's half, Booth skipped his shot towards a vacant net... and rung it off the post harmlessly. Perhaps it's only for that inglorious clang that Maxim Lapierre ultimately took pity and chose Booth over both himself and Dale Weise - all three charging into the zone once again - to hammer in the game's final nail. Booth was happy with the goal and embraced the overzealous celebration from his buddies on the ice. If he understood then what it meant in the grand scheme of his season, his reaction might have been different. That goal was not the ‘slump-buster' it should have been. His season ended with a brutal ankle injury two nights later.
Booth was healthy for a total of twelve games this season, and frustratingly unlucky in his production during that span. With that empty netter, his shooting percentage grew to an unbearably low four percent - not just too low to be sustainable over a season any longer, but substantially lower than his eleven percent conversion rate of the prior year. This misfortune can't be allowed to mask how well he played: Corsi ratings have him below only the Sedin twins for driving offensive production. That's not a trick of the shrunken sample size. Last year, too, he created the best differential of shots-directed-at-net of all players not on the top line. He also did it without the advantage of so much deployment in the attacking zone.
The starting gun for talk about a contract buyout was fired at the trade deadline. How could we all be so lucky to receive Derek Roy, the piece of the puzzle that would solve scoring and centre-depth in one small, speedy bundle? And more importantly, how could this six-million-dollar-man ever be retained? Eyes darted quickly to Keith Ballard and Booth, both of whom had struggled to find a consistent role in the squad, and both of whom present substantial drains on the salary cap. While Roy's performance failed to justify his retention, a budget that's nevertheless still shrinking has meant discussion of a Booth buyout lingers.
It's possible that the Canucks' community will never accept David Booth. His proto-American combination of machismo and Christianity has led to a standoffish relationship with a peculiarly Canadian fanbase, who are uneasy when faced by a value system that allows bears to be hunted by bow. Why couldn't he be a Hindu, or something, and vegetarian? Or at least softly spoken, secular and innocently playful, like that other Michigander? These philosophical incompatibilities will need to be set aside, for now. Booth will be hungry to see a new slump-buster pay dividends next season. And the Canucks organization itself is not in such a position of great tactical advantage that they can afford to snap one of the only arrows remaining in their quiver.
You can read this - and more great hockey wording! - at my new Canucks blog, Green Men and Millionaires.