I realized last night that we are watching another streak of good play from the Islanders Josh Bailey, in games that don’t really matter much. What can we take away from it? Is he, finally, living up to the promise he had when the Islanders drafted him 9th overall in 2008? Is this just a good streak that will ultimately end and go back to a bad streak?
For all the ups and downs, mostly downs, of Bailey’s career, he is only 24. He’s also signed through the 2017-2018 season, so unless someone steps up and wants him in a trade for a goalie, he’s going to be with the Islanders for awhile longer. Given the pedigree, contract and production he’s had thus far, I don’t see a lot of teams clamoring to include him in a trade.
We’ve also been down this road before. After a lackluster rookie season, one which I feel would have been better spent in Juniors, but the Isles being what they were in 2009, had a spot for him, he surged up to a 35 point sophomore season. (16g, 19a in 73 games). He seemed to be progressing, even finishing with a cool +5 rating.
But 2009-2010 saw him regress, scoring only 11-17-28 with a -13 rating in 70 games. 2011-2012 was more of the same, 13-19-31 and -10 rating in 80 games. Nothing in these numbers jumps out the way you’d expect from a first round pick, but there were flashes, especially toward the end of the 11-12 season. Then we had a lockout, and Bailey got injured while playing overseas. When he finally made his debut, it was a slow start. 2-3-5 in the first 18 games.
The last 20 games of that season and the playoffs, on the other hand, looked different. Josh managed 9 goals in the final 20 games of that season, a scoring rate that was better than what we had seen at any point in his career to this point. There were high hopes coming into this season that Bailey was finally ready to provide the consistent secondary scoring that the Isles desperately needed.
Those hopes seemed legit on Oct 25. That was the 10 game mark of the season and we were looking at a Josh Bailey who had 4g, 4a and was a +4.
It would be almost 3 months before he scored another goal. (Jan 23) The Islanders fell out of playoff contention during that time as well.
So now, we’re looking at another nice run by Bailey, that might give us hope that things will be different next year. He has 10 points (3g. 7a) in the last 11 games. Is part of that extra ice time with the injuries to Tavares and Okposo? Maybe, but he was still getting plenty of ice time during that 3 month goal drought too.
The question is, where do we go from here? Do we hope that this recent stretch is the real Josh Bailey, and guarantee him a top 6 spot next season? What does that mean for Ryan Strome, or Anders Lee? If we consider JT, Okposo, Neilsen, Grabner, and Bailey as top 6 forwards, and anticipate adding another top six winger, that leaves Strome and Lee maybe playing on the third line with Clutterback? Or do we think Brock Nelson deserves a spot there? The truth of the matter is, the Bailey we’ve seen in the last 10 games deserves a spot on the 2nd line, maybe even playing LW on the first line. But the Bailey who didn’t score for almost 3 months doesn’t deserve either. He’s got to score. It’s not like he’s a stopper, an instigator, or even good on faceoffs (Career .432 winning percentage.) to make up for a lack of scoring. He’s supposed to score, the team counts on his line scoring, and when he and Grabner go long stretches without scoring, the team does not do well.
We are now closing in on the end of Bailey’s sixth NHL season, and we’re still wondering if he’ll ever score consistently. So far, the answer has been no. I’m not sure the Islanders can gamble another season on it happening.
Then again, the Islanders have to make a move for a goalie before the start of next season as well. Who knows what roster pieces will have to go to accommodate that and what the forward situation will look like?