Into the New Year the Toronto Maple Leafs are in a slump where they have now lost seven of their last nine games. And while the team has dropped games they have all had bodies drop as well. The team has sustained injuries to key parts of their core. Centremen Peter Holland and Nazem Kadri as well as Joffrey Lupul have all succumbed to the injury bug and all could be out for some time.
Booth, is he the Next Raymond?
One solution to try and fill the void left by these big names could be to finally cut the cord on fourth liner David Booth. The former Vancouver Canuck was signed by the Leafs in the off-season after a sub-par season with the Canucks. The team was hoping he could hopefully become a diamond in the rough, one that they were able to find last season with Mason Raymond.
Raymond made the team out last year off a professional tryout during training camp. He was able to crack the squad and signed a one-year deal for one million dollars and posted an impressive, 19 goals in 82 games for the Buds; great bag for the buck.
Not Given a Chance
Booth missed the beginning of the season with a lower-body injury and once he returned he was placed on the team’s fourth line, a spot he has not been moved from. In the wake of the injuries the team has called up forward Greg McKegg from the Toronto Marlies and the likes of Carter Ashton and Trevor Smith have been reinstated into the lineup after both seeing time in and out of the lineup with a completely healthy Leafs lineup.
Booth this season has just one goal and one assist in 19 games, but to his credit he is only averaging 9:31 of ice time. Though during Friday’s game was as low as 6:16, despite the fact the Leafs were without a number of their veteran players and were in the first of two games in two nights. This was very surprising to many including the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle.
All preseason: “We’re going to play the fourth line more.” One guy gets 2:45. One gets four minutes and the other gets six. Back to backs.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) January 3, 2015
The Maple Leafs made it clear coming out of training camp and with the moves they made in the off-season that they wanted to be a team that fought less and instead of filling their fourth line with goons, had players who could contribute offensively as well. They brought in the likes of Booth, Daniel Winnik, Leo Komarov, Mike Santorelli, and Richard Panik with the feeling that these players could adequately play amongst the team’s bottom two lines will able to produce offence and physicality.
Can’t Find the Ice
In Saturday’s 5-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, Booth looked to be one of the few Leafs with a bit of energy in his step, likely since he had only played six minutes the night before, and coach Randy Carlyle finally rewarded the winger with a few more minutes, playing Booth for over 11 minutes. However, Booth remains largely on the fourth line and has even seen Ashton played ahead of him, who despite all the success he has had in the American Hockey League, has yet to score a goal with the big club and adding only three assists, during a total of 54 games.
What also doesn’t help Booth’s chances is that the Detroit, MI native doesn’t not see any power play or penalty killing time either. And In 11 of the 19 games he has played this season he has seen the ice for less than 10 minutes.
Offence is Needed, Can Booth Produce?
Lupul’s injury is expected to keep him out of the lineup for the next four weeks, Holland is reportedly week-to-week, while Kadri should be back sometime late this week or next. So, with these guys out of the lineup the team is going to need the offence to come fro somewhere else.
Booth has seen his point production drop steadily since his impressive 60 point season in Florida where he tallied 31 goals for the Panthers. However, the drop is also largely due to injuries most notably the severe concussion he suffered back during the 2009-10 season in Florida when he took a blindside hit by Philadelphia Flyers’ Mike Richards. He would only play 28 games that year and though he did play all 82 the following season, Booth has not played a full 82-game season since.
The 30-year-old still has some game left and has shown in recently, with his speed and compete, that he is ready to take on a bigger role with the club, especially while they are in the midst of a slump. In the end though it will be up to Carlyle and whether he is ready to hand Booth that larger responsibility.
Craig is an intern at The Hockey News where he has written for both the website and the magazine. He is also a featured-blogger at http://www.hockeyforums.net/index.php/blog/46-its-a-canadian-game/. Craig has an Honours in Journalism from Wilfird Laurier University and is currently completing the Sports Journalism Program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman.