Josh Bailey is next up as ESNY works its way through the New York Islanders roster and hands out grades for the 2017-18 season.
There are factions that like the former first-round pick from Bowmanville, Ontario; and some, well, not so much. I’ll do my best to leave my fandom at the door and try to be as objective as possible here.
Coming into this season, the expectations were temporarily removed as a result of the trade bringing Jordan Eberle to New York from Edmonton. After a few games, coach Doug Weight shuffled Eberle to Mat Barzal’s line, reuniting Bailey with Lee and Tavares.
Although Bailey played well on the second line, the scoring numbers grew and grew. Bailey was involved in some year-end top plays and finished with career highs in goals (18), assists (53) and points (71). Confidence became apparent immediately and that showed in Bailey’s first All-Star selection.
Because of his play, he was rewarded with a six-year, $30 million extension. Some experts believe that Bailey has taken a discount, that he could have made more as a free agent. Others say he took a discount to leave more money for the team to spend on Tavares.
Whether that’s the case or not, we’ll find out about Tavares’ future over the next 75 days or so.
Bailey’s offensive numbers, along with the rest of his Islanders teammates, were a positive impact on their start of the season. The team was lucky enough to win some of “track meet” matches in the first 30 games. Once the end of December hit, the team began to struggle mightily, and it showed in all four lines.
The most alarming statistic is the plus-minus. Bailey, who was hanging around the low positive numbers, ended the season at a minus-20. As good as the offensive numbers were, the lack of two-way play, a facet of Bailey’s game that was much better in his second and third-line roles, were glaringly evident as the season wore on.
You can have a career year in scoring, but if you aren’t helping in the back end of the rink, it is just not fruitful to the success of the team.
The ugly portion of this review does not necessarily reflect Bailey’s play or statistics. It is regarding the way that both the organization, as well as the fans, look at the ninth-overall pick from the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
There are some that do think that Bailey is finally getting the recognition for his service to the team, taking whatever role given, and making the most out of it. Some feel that Islanders general manager Garth Snow has given too much love to Bailey and has coddled him for a long time.
Others just feel that Bailey doesn’t deserve to be where he is, and question his $30 million extension. There are so many layers to this debate, which will rage on so long as Bailey remains in Blue and Orange.
Many Islander players have always been in this kind of spotlight before (Derek King and Mikko Makela come to mind), and Bailey is just another member of the great debate on whether an Islander is earning his dollars.
This reporter’s opinion is that for many years, Bailey has been an enigma to the fans.
From his selection in the draft, where Snow moved down twice to select him, to his struggle to get on the scoresheet, to his eventual maturation and solid last two seasons, Bailey has finally got recognition for working hard.
He is now locked into the next six seasons in New York, and the next few weeks will be interesting to see if the players that will surround him will help Bailey progress into the player that many were expecting nearly a decade ago.
It is my opinion that perseverance pays off. Not only has it given Bailey a nice pay-raise, but it has finally solidified his presence as an Islander, and a Top 40 point scorer in the league.
Final 2017-18 Grade for Josh Bailey: B
Stay tuned to Elite Sports NY for more New York Islanders Report Cards.