Torts gives Booth shot to prove himself
Lineup: Archibald sent down to Utica, while 6-foot-6 forward Lain called up and could play on Thursday
John Tortorella has a roster leash and knows how to let it out. He also knows how to give it a good yank. Just ask Darren Archibald and David Booth.
The credo of the Vancouver Canucks coach is simple. Do something, do it well and consistently, and you'll stay in the lineup. If you don't, you're the disappointing Archibald and back with the Utica Comets. And if you're Booth, you get another chance to prove that you shouldn't be a lineup afterthought.
Archibald has the size and physical presence that Tortorella covets, but in two recalls and 11 games this season, it wasn't that the 6-foot-3, 210-pound winger didn't have a point. It's that he had 22 hits in 7:45 of average ice time. On Monday in Los Angeles, he had one hit and one shot in 5:49 of the fight-filled game.
"With Archie, it's a process and I'd like to see him be more aggressive," Tortorella said of the undrafted 23-year-old, who has six goals and 13 points in 23 games in the AHL. "I don't know who he is. He has to decide if he can play in the NHL. That's not a negative. When he comes back up, it's going to be: 'I'm going to show you who I am.' "He needs to take a guy's job with his size and willingness. We need to see it more. Not in 10 minutes to show me, in two or three minutes to show me and show me quickly."
The same could be said for Booth.
With just five goals and 10 points in 32 games heading into Wednesday's Canucks-Ducks game in Anaheim, Booth has never had much traction. Coming off ankle surgery in March and a pre-season groin problem, the winger often looked a step behind before using a powerskating coach.
He scored in back-to-back games Dec. 14 and 17 but hasn't had a sniff since, which led to the "I can't find him" lament from Tortorella. Booth's DND - did not dress - total reached 11 games, and unless there's a marked improvement in the $4.5-million-US winger, who's a $4.25-million cap hit, he could be a compliance buyout next summer. Booth is scheduled to earn $4.5 million and $4.75 million the next two seasons.
If Booth didn't take anything from being on the sidelines Monday when his teammates were showing a backbone in Los Angeles, you have to wonder where his head is at. He was working out when the Canucks and Kings were working each other over. If that isn't enough incentive, the Canucks have recalled 6-foot-6 forward Kellan Lain, who has 11 points (7-4) in 35 games and leads the Comets with 84 penalty minutes. He could play Thursday in Phoenix.
"I hope he (Booth) sees how the guys played the other night because that's how we need him to play," said Tortorella.
Having heard that challenge - not to fight but be strong on the puck, win board battles and get pucks to the net - Booth said all the right things Wednesday. He has teased with an ability to cut to the net, stay there and jam home some goals. If the Canucks are going to push for a playoff position, they need Booth. They need him to play in the top-six mix and look like he belongs. You'd think knowing Alex Burrows returns Saturday from a broken jaw should also push Booth.
"I still believe I'm a good player," said Booth, who started on the fourth line Wednesday. "I thought I was playing really well in December. I remember having a couple of tough shifts against Anaheim (Jan. 5) and I don't know if that's what changed momentum of that game. When you get outplayed like that, you think the whole thing is your fault and it's hard to take. It's a matter of playing the game the right way and I thought I was there before I struggled."
Tortorella referenced that Jan. 5 game and the previous night in Los Angeles as being low-water marks for Booth, a pair of no-shot outings that made him a healthy scratch for four games.
"There were a couple of major shifts in here and it wasn't just one (bad) play - it was a number of plays," recalled Tortorella. "He's a veteran guy and has a big core and is a willing guy.
"He's a good guy, but I don't make the decisions. He's got to find a way to get some consistency. You could see he was starting to play better and getting chances and pucks to the net. And then he vanishes."
For Booth, it's a matter of being good every shift, not just a few shifts and regaining his fleeting confidence.
"It's a matter of doing it consistently and not worrying what's going to happen if I have a setback," he said.
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