Josh Bailey set career-highs in points and assists in 16-17, but the 27-year-old forward still needs to polish physical aspects of his game.
Josh Bailey had a breakout year this season, compiling 43 assists and 56 points. Fans who anticipated his emergence last season pointed to it originating in 15-16’s Game three against the Lightning during round two of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Bailey had two goals in that game in what was likely the best of his career.
In 16-17, he picked up right where he left off, scoring the OT winner in the home opener at the Barclays Center. At around the December point, Bailey was placed on Tavares’ side and this is where he really began to flourish, especially in the assist column.
This led to a divide in fans and they, for the most part, slipped into two groups: one who believes Bailey genuinely broke out as a player or people who believe he’s pigeoning off of superstar John Tavares.
I, for one, find myself very torn.
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While I want to give Bailey the benefit of the doubt and think “This isn’t another ‘Matt Moulson’ or ‘P.A. Parenteau’ type of player”, I found myself thinking “He IS playing with Tavares” a lot of the time.
Bailey potted 13 goals this season, two shy of his career-high 15 and has yet to reach the 20-goal mark in his career. My opinion on Bailey is simply this: a gifted two-way forward who sees the ice well but has a lack of finish, ideally suited on the 2nd or 3rd-line.
The constant and re-occurring kock on the winger is his tendency to get pushed around with the puck and not protect it well, under-utilizing his 6-foot-1, 210-pound frame. There are instances which he very evidently takes shifts off, they lead to goals against. He’s too talented of a player to be allowing some of the defensive gaffes that he does, and it needs to be improved on next season.
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The Contractual Conundrum
But to fire back at the “pigeon” criticism, if the chemistry with Tavares and teammate Anders Lee continues, why bother stopping it? Once the trio was united it helped bring Tavares out of his slump in a huge way, helping the forward reach 28 goals after disappearing for most of October-November with the rest of the team.
It’s truly a toss-up when it comes to Bailey’s stats as well, as he is in a contract year next offseason and he could have surged to help win him some extra 0’s on the paycheck (again, see Moulson, Michael Grabner).
So it remains to be seen how the Islanders will handle Josh Bailey’s contract. General Manager Garth Snow has to decide if his breakout year is genuine and worth extending after next season, or if the younger and more economic talent on its way up can do an apt job at 1/5 of the cost.
This season will determine the type of player Bailey really is, and this past year helped sway some opinion.