David Booth will start tonight’s game in Edmonton with the #7 on his back, having switched from the #10 that adorned his Panthers uniform for the past five seasons in sunny Florida. Why the change, you might ask? Booth says he made the switch to match that of his 16 year old sister, a hockey player herself (some have speculated he was asked to do it because the team has future plans for the #10…). Canucks fans are hoping the change might just be the good luck push the 26 year old winger needs to reach the potential that the Panthers saw in him when he was drafted back in 2004.
There was some confusion following the news that Booth had cried upon hearing he had been traded from the Panthers to the Canucks, along with Steven Reinprecht and a 3rd round pick, for Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm. Given the night-and-day contrast between the two clubs, that kind of reaction just seemed bizarre. In a media scrum yesterday, however, Booth explained that the tears were meant for his younger brother, whom he lived with and will clearly miss back in Florida. Booth actually appeared quite excited to be joining the Canucks, having spent his whole career with the post-season deficient Panthers. He grinned from ear to ear when asked about his reunion with fellow Michigan native Ryan Kesler, whom he has played with on the US National team several times, as well as former Panthers teammate Chris Higgins on what’s been dubbed the Canucks’ All-American Line. The ultimate hope is that by adding Booth to their top six forwards, Vancouver will finally achieve some stability on offense; however, like all things surrounding this club, there are those doubting whether Gillis’ gamble is worth the price tag, given what happened to his new acquisition during the 09/10 season.
At the start of that year, Booth took a Mike Richards elbow to the head, sidelining him for 45 games with post-concussion syndrome. Just two months after his return, he was knocked out of play again after taking a hit from Jaroslav Spacek, which ultimately ended his season. Booth returned with a clean bill of health the next year, playing in all 82 games for the Panthers, but he registered only 40 points, a drop off of 20 from his previous full campaign. Having shown no signs of relapse or vulnerability since his concussions, the hope in Canuck Nation is that a simple change of scenery is just what the young forward needs to return to form.
It won’t take long for Booth to get his first taste of life in hockey-mad Vancouver, as the Canucks return home to face the Blues tomorrow after their game against the Oilers tonight. There will be pressure for him to pick up his game in this market, given the $18 million he’s still owed over the next three years and how fans react to underachieving players with that hefty a cap hit. Further fueling doubts of his worth is the one assist he’s compiled thus far this season. Playing with two high energy players in Kesler and Higgins should help inflate those stats, and Mike Gillis will be banking on those two to help Booth return to the 30 goal plateau and beyond. Just how lucky that #7 on his back will be in that regard is unclear, but the change seems to have worked out pretty well so far for the newest Canuck.
It got him out of Florida, didn’t it?