Has the Isles Top Line Found Their Missing Link?

For years, the debate among fans has been the need to get players who can play with John Tavares and compliment his game.  For a while, Matt Moulson filled that role on one side, however, his play began to fade which led to him being traded to Buffalo early last season.  Meanwhile, the emergence of Kyle Okposo put the right-wing side on lock down.  That left-wing side has remained a sort of black hole since Moulson left.  The Islanders have really struggled to find a solution in that spot trying almost everyone on their active roster at some point or another.  Could they have finally found the player for that spot in Josh Bailey?

Bailey Finding a Home

At first, when Josh Bailey was put on the top line earlier this season he had a fair share of struggles.  That led to him being taken off the line in favor of Mikhail Grabovski.  With his failure in that spot, some began to raise questions about his future with the team figuring if he can’t succeed there, where can he?  However, when Grabovski got hurt in New Jersey on January 9th Bailey was put back in that spot and hasn’t looked back since.  In that time, you can see that Bailey is beginning to get some chemistry with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo as well.  In the final three games of the first half which ended on Monday, Bailey managed 6 points including 3 assists in the Islanders victory over the Penguins on January 16th.  On the season, Bailey has 21 points in 34 games which puts him on pace for a career high in points with 43.  While he might still draw the ire of fans from time to time, it seems like we might be on the precipice of what we have been waiting for, for a long time from Bailey.

Proving His Critics Wrong

Casey was one of many who weren’t big fans of Josh Bailey and some probably are still in that boat.  However, his play of late is proving people like Casey and well myself as well completely wrong.  Last month, I discussed who I felt could end up in the top line spot and sort of dismissed Bailey as an option.  Among other things saying that while Bailey was skilled, he wasn’t quite consistent enough to play with players like Tavares and Okposo.  While it has been a small sample size, to this point he has proven me and many others wrong.  In the past, this was the time of season when Bailey would more or less be non-existent night in and night out.  If you recall, last season, he had a huge goal drought that stretched across many months.  The fact that he is actually producing now is something fans aren’t used to and could explain why some are getting excited for him.

Playing Through the Rumors

Bailey has severely struggled to live up to the player people expected him to be when Garth Snow took him in the first round of the 2008 draft.  Bailey was also Snows first, first round draft pick as GM.  Due to his struggles, Baileys future began to get a little murky in Islanders Country.  The off-season additions of Nikolay Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski made it that much more unclear.  However, Bailey never let the rumors get in the way of playing or his behavior off the ice.  If his recent play is any indication, Bailey could finally be developing into the player all fans hoped he would be back on that summer night in 2008.