David Booth will make his Vancouver Canucks debut tonight in Edmonton. All eyes will be on the newcomer that came over in a trade from the Florida Panthers on Saturday. Booth is expected to play left wing on a second line with fellow Americans Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins.
Vancouver’s second line, centered by Kesler, has been cause for concern for some time. It’s often been referred to as the “helicopter line,” as in it flies with no wings.
All summer long there were calls for general manager Mike Gillis to go out and get someone to play with Kesler – specifically a power forward that can put the puck in the net. And while Booth might not be the most powerful of power forwards, he’s certainly bigger and stronger than speedy-but-slight Mason Raymond, who’s currently out with a serious back injury. Raymond was one of the more maligned Canucks last season. After breaking out in 2009-10 with 25 goals, he scored just 15 times in 2010-11. His tendency to operate on the perimeter of the play was a major criticism.
Thus, the acquisition of Booth.
“[Booth’s] got good size and obviously a real good skater that doesn’t mind going to those areas you need to go,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said, as reported by NHL.com. “We’re giving him an opportunity to get his game to where he wants it to be, and where we need it to be.”
The Booth-Kesler-Higgins combo is a solid one on paper, though you never know how these things will turn out.
Higgins isn’t just a throw-in either. The 28-year-old who came to the Canucks last season at the deadline in a trade with – yep – the Florida Panthers has impressed with his work ethic and physical play. After bouncing around the league for a couple of seasons, his gritty performance in the postseason earned him a two-year, $3.8-million contract.
For the Canucks, the hope now is that they can get consistent production from the second line, thereby complementing the top line that’s made up of the Sedins and Alex Burrows.
The Sedins were blasted for their lack of production in the Stanley Cup final (and rightly so); however, with Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara (arguably the top shutdown man in the NHL) focusing most of his energy on stopping the twins, the rest of the Canucks team needed to step up and score. But that didn’t happen. Not even close. Kesler had just one assist in seven games versus the Bruins.
True, Kesler was playing hurt. So much so that he required offseason hip surgery. And yes, Tim Thomas played rather well. But the second line’s failure to contribute offensively dated back to the second half of the regular season.
Do the Canucks have a solution in Booth? They’d better. Because they’ve got him until 2015 with an annual cap hit of $4.25 million.