Botchford: There’s no pigeonholing David Booth
Call him different. Weird. Atypical. Whatever labels get hung on his shoulders, the Canucks forward has no pretense
While mildly pressed on his theological beliefs Wednesday, David Booth defended his position and did it referencing Socrates and Plato.
It wasn’t your typical locker-room back and forth, and Booth isn’t your typical $4.2 million forward.
He is a different dude.
There are a lot of things to admire about Booth, the person. He has this unyielding curiosity, which led him to England and the University of Oxford in the summer, where he spent 10 days living in a dorm room and studying theology.
The trip was spurred by questions about faith he couldn’t answer directed his way via twitter.
Booth has a wide variety of non-hockey related interests, including hunting, travelling, hiking, and, of course, his faith. It’s both grounded, and admirable.
Maybe it hasn’t helped his game on the ice over the years. But he said it has helped him off it.
“Sometimes you go so crazy thinking about ‘hockey, hockey’ that when you can take your mind off of it for a little bit, you’re fired up to go back at it,” Booth explained. “That’s what I need to do more of.
“Especially coming here to Vancouver, it’s just hockey non-stop. You look back at the past, and you’re able to clear your mind in other places.
“Here it’s every practice day, and every off day. ‘OK, what can I do to get better?’ and it’s all you think about.”
Booth is unfailingly positive. His smile as wide as the Fraser River Wednesday recalling his excitement when John Tortorella told him he wanted to send him to Utica.
“Honestly, I thought it was a great idea,” said Booth, adding he was actually shocked to get recalled after just three games in AHL.
He thought he was going to be in Utica through this weekend.
“I wanted to go and play more than 20 minutes versus 10 or 12 (in Vancouver),” he said. “It just makes such a difference in how you feel on the ice, your confidence.
“This is the best I’ve felt all year.
“I had fun and it motivates you to come back here.”
I didn’t think for a second it was an act, because with Booth there is never pretense. What you see is what you get.
The problem for the Canucks, however, is they are not seeing a goal scorer.
Booth has struggled to be a productive player on a team desperate for a dynamic sniper.
Booth has played 23 games in 2013. He’s scored two goals, one a gift into an empty net. He has had 39 shots on net in those 23 games. This is a player who one season in Florida scored 31 goals and in another piled up 280 shots.
But the Booth who is set to return to the lineup Thursday against San Jose, his first game since Oct. 24, seems a long way away from the one who earned a six-year, $25.5 million contract.
The Canucks need goals from Booth for that $4.2 million. Without them, he has been marginalized despite good puck possession numbers, a solid 54 per cent Corsi rating, and the fact he’s been on the ice for only one goal against this season. That was a mean-nothing Boyd Gordon goal in a 6-2 Canucks’ win over the Oilers on Oct. 5.
Of course, Booth has been injured multiple times this year. There was a groin injury to start the calendar year in January. There was the ankle surgery in March which kept him off the ice till September.
There was the most recent groin injury suffered three weeks ago before he was sent to Utica.
He has also been a healthy scratch, which was Tortorella’s boldest message-sending moment of the season.
Now, Booth finds himself in a difficult paradox. He has to find a way to produce, but he’s playing on the third line with a defensive centre, Brad Richardson. He’s doing this for a coach who loves to play the stuffing out of his top six.
It may test that positive attitude he’s developed over the years. But, to be honest, that test has been ongoing all year.
“You try to look at, what are you learning through this whole process,” Booth said. “I just want so bad to be back playing a lot and contributing.
“I think you put so much pressure on yourself to get there, and sometimes that can be a negative.
“I wasn’t angry at all. I very seldom get angry. Really angry. I try to look at the whole perspective and try and figure out why things are good for me.
“I’ve been frustrated. But that frustration is sometimes when you’re emotion takes over. When you step back and look, you see the big picture.
“Obviously, I want to play more. That’s the frustrating part.”
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David Booth of the Vancouver Canucks has been a lightning rod of discussion for the team’s fans, whether they question his theological beliefs, hunting hobbies or the $4.2 million he’s getting paid to produce two goals in 23 games.
Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, NHLI via Getty Images