Healthy David Booth an eternal optimist
‘I can be a force’: Injuries to his knee, groin and ankle have kept the Canuck from achieving his potential
If adversity builds character, then David Booth is among the league leaders in eternal hope.
From knee, groin and ankle injuries that made many wonder if the Vancouver Canucks winger was a better buy-out option once healthy — rather than the best candidate to play with Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows — the always-optimistic Booth was back on the practice ice Wednesday.
He’s expected to play at some point in the NHL preseason after March ankle surgery, in which screws re-attached his fibula and tibia and kept them in place. All this after suffering a groin injury in an initial training-camp skating test a year ago that cost him the first 14 games of the lockout season.
Booth was limited to a dozen games last season and managed all of one empty-net goal. He must prove worthy of a contract that pays $4.25 million US annually the next two seasons.
If adversity does build character, then the 28-year-old Detroit native could finally meet expectations.
“I’m a big believer in that and I think my faith has helped me out through this time — and it’s probably been the toughest time in my career,” said Booth. “I just want to get back to being the player I can be and know I can be. Nobody puts more pressure on me than I do. It’s been tough, but that all builds character and I’m looking forward to a big year.”
When swept by the San Jose Sharks in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring, the Canucks were missing that force off the wall who could take pucks to the net and jam home rebounds. In December 2011, Booth scored three goals and added two assists in a five-game span, and it looked like Kesler had finally found his winger.
Then came the Kevin Porter knee-on-knee hit on Booth.
“That was the best I was playing,” recalled Booth, who finished that season with 16 goals.
“If given the opportunity, I can really be a force in this league. I can’t change the way I play because injuries are part of the game. It’s a man’s game out there. I’ve still got to take pucks to the net and finish my hits, and that’s the way I play my game. I don’t want to get away from that. If you play the game afraid, that’s when you get hurt.”
The road to recovery hasn’t been easy. Booth couldn’t place any weight on his ankle for two months, but the gym rat still worked out rigorously and added upper-body muscle to put him up to 237 pounds. Once he could do cardio, Booth got down to 205 and is now at 215, but his body had to adjust to the surgery. Booth has had calf soreness while training, and even his initial skates were tough before he was medically cleared.
“It’s not like you can throw on the skates and go out there,” he stressed. “Hockey is so dynamic and there are so many different angles and edges you’re on.
“There’s a process of trying to get it 100 per cent and times when the body will work the way it wants to, and not the proper way. I’ve battled through those.”
Canucks coach John Tortorella saw enough of Booth in those all-Florida matchups to have a read on his winger. Needless to say, a healthy Booth will help provide that second wave of offence.
“He killed us in Florida, and the biggest thing for me is, can he stay healthy?” asked Tortorella, a former Tampa Bay head coach.
“He can be an asset in how we want to play on the puck. He slots people in different spots and we get a good player that can really help us.”
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