What’s Buggin’ Bailey?

Josh Bailey was drafted 9th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders (sykora93/Flickr)

Josh Bailey was selected 9th overall by the New York Islanders in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, a choice that would cause plenty of discussion, different opinions and at first, harsh criticism of the relatively new General Manager, Garth Snow.

It was Snow’s first taste of the first round at the NHL draft since the previous year’s first round pick had been traded in the Ryan Smyth deal to the Edmonton Oilers. Snow dropped from the 5th overall selection, to 7th and then 9th while adding picks in the later rounds. Most notably, Snow passed on physical blue-liner, Luke Schenn who was taken by Toronto. But by the end of the day, many were saying that Garth Snow might have stolen the draft since he managed to get several highly rated prospects and even took Kirill Petrov with a third-round gamble.

But Bailey was the player that the Islanders had wanted all along and was immediately rushed into the NHL at eighteen years old. He could have been returned to his junior team; the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. It had been speculated that he would have been named captain and would have had another full season of Junior hockey under his belt. He ended the 2008 season in Windsor with scoring 29 goals and 67 assists for 96 points. The only player to have more points than Bailey that was taken from the OHL in the same draft class was the first overall selection, Steven Stamkos. So keeping the young forward in an orange and blue jersey seemed promising.

He finished his rookie season with 25 points and followed up his sophomore season with 35 points. Last year he seemed more comfortable at the wing position and went on an impressive streak where he was seen on the stat sheet in what seemed like every night. This year has hardly been the same.

With Tavares hurt early on after the first game of the season, Bailey was forced to step up his game in order to keep his team competitive. He had three goals and three assists for six points in his first five games played, combining with Blake Comeau for a deadly duo every time they were on the ice. But the strong start was followed with an invisible shield; he went on to go scoreless in his next thirteen games, prompting a demotion to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. It was a last minute move; Bailey’s waiver-free two-way status would have been erased if he played one more game in the NHL.

Josh Bailey lines up for a face-off while playing wing, a switch that was made in attempt to spark his offense (MVerminski/Flickr)

With the Sound Tigers, Bailey tallied six goals and eleven assists for seventeen points in only eleven games played. The player that they had always wanted was starting to show that he could score the clutch and timely goals they thought he would and was playing with strength, energy and passion. In addition, the theory that his hip pointer injury that he suffered in early October was still nagging him and hampering his play had been pretty much put to rest with his impressive stint in the AHL. It was time to call him back up for another shot. He went pointless in his first game back but then recorded a three point night against Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils. Things were starting to look up for the 21-year old center.

There have been spurts here or there for Bailey, but he has only amassed another six points (one goal and five assists) over the last seventeen games played. The Islanders cannot send him back down to Bridgeport without placing him on waivers and another NHL team would be sure to take a chance on the young forward. Therefore Bailey is likely stuck with the Islanders for the rest of the year and is forced to find his way out of a slumping season on his own.

Could this have been avoided? Probably. An easy guess would have been that Bailey’s development would have began smoother had he been sent back to the Windsor Spitfires. At the very least, in a 2009 season where the Islanders were destined to finish last and select John Tavares, the Islanders should have sent the 18-year old to the World Junior Championships. Instead, they opted to keep him with the team instead of putting him in a competitive environment where he would have been striving for a gold medal; an experience that surely would have been rewarding regardless of the finish.

There is another hiccup with this season for Bailey; this is the third and final year of his entry-level contract and the February trade deadline is slowly creeping forward. Garth Snow has made decisions in the past with players that were given time to prove themselves but never were up to the task, such as Sean Bergenheim and Jeff Tambellini. But would Snow trade a player that is considered a core member of the youth movement that still may eventually break out into the second-line forward they expected him to be? If not, how long does Snow extend him for when he has to worry about re-signing Kyle Okposo as well as several others?

It clearly hasn’t been an easy road for Josh Bailey and a very uncertain future lies before him.

-Rob McGowan

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12 thoughts on “What’s Buggin’ Bailey?”

  1. Its hard to compare Bailey to Stamkos. It’s time for him to go. There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle clicking and he isn’t one of them. Get him out while he still has the value.

  2. I know he’s played well (at times) with Comeau. I also know we like the Moulson/Tavares combo. But I think back to last season when Josh had his hot streak and it was on the ‘OTB Line’ with Okposo and Tavares.

  3. he should have been kept in the AHL for the rest of the season, instead of coming back up. He must have been a much more confident player down in the AHL. Personally, I think it’s time to trade him, if we can get a solid return. He can do well if he has support that a quality NHL team can give him… I hate to say it, but the Islanders can’t help his development, they can only hurt it even further. There’s no qyestion the kid has potential, but I’d be surprised if it’s ever realized on the island.

  4. Islebethere4u – agreed. What i dont understand is why players cant play in the AHL if they are coming off of their draft year. They should change whatever rule is stopping players from doing that. So you dominate junior, but arent quite ready for the NHL. You can go back to junior where you’ve already been dominate or you go to the NHL where you will be dominated. They should try to find a way to utilize the AHL more effectively.

  5. I remember when most draft picks were NEVER considered for the big club until they were at least 20, 21, 22 years old. Kids had to be real phenoms like Gretzky, Lemeuix, Crosby and the like. No one was ever rushed. They had to ready physically and mentally for the rigors of the NHL. I think too many careers have been ruined by rushing kids into a mans world too early. Not just by physical injury, but by mental injury. Long seasons and high expectations damage many young players confidence. Some get through it, some don’t. I think they should raise the age to 20 or 21 for entry into the NHL and let these kids develope properly. Only special cases should go early. Sure, these kids may seem mature for their age and say all the right things in an interview, but they are still kids. Rush them and you could be playing “rushin roulette” with careers.

  6. Bailey is only 21 years old, so its way too early to be putting limits or trade value on him. He was clearly rushed into the NHL, i think pretty much everyone can agree on that. He was so over matched physically his first two years in the league. Unfortunately, he missed out on a lot of great opportunities that would have presented themselves if he wasnt rushed to the Islanders. He’s been thrown around a lot this year and the Isles keep asking him to do things outside his capabilities or comfort zone. First they wanted him to shoot more (he was never a scorer). Then they moved him to play wing (we drafted him b/c he was a playmaking center). They need to stick him in the middle and hone the exact skills we drafted him for, his playmaking ability. Once he is performing that aspect of his game comfortably and productively we can then ask him to start adding things to his game. The Isles never gave him the chance to do that. I dont see why Rob Schremp gets the nod over Bailey at center. Makes zero sense to me. The only thing troubling to me about Bailey at this point in time is his battle level game in and game out. Bailey, just like Comeau, can be dominant on some nights, but then you wouldnt even know they were playing for the next week. That needs to be addressed. It appeared as though his stint in the AHL woke him up as he came back like a gangbuster, but then he slowly faded into oblivion again. Give him a specific role and let him try to flourish in it. Make sure he is giving consistent efforts and Josh Bailey should become a really good 2nd line center for us. Of course, this is if the Isles handle him correctly

  7. If he clearly isn’t succeeding for the NYI, and the coach isn’t happy with his performance and development, instead of sending him down again, why not trade him to a team like Vancouver who has apparently been interested in him. Pick up one of their defenders, they have enough, and that’s exactly what NYI need right now. Bailey has serious talent, things sometimes just take a little time. Stamkos didn’t just walk into 100 point seasons. Give him a chance.

  8. db: “just so you know there are 3 other players from islanders 2008 draft class that made the nhl.” its actually 4 with hamonic einstein. get your facts right.

    • if you read the article the blogger already pointed out that bailey and hamonic were the only 2 players to make the nhl out of that draft. i just pointed out as well as bailey and hamonic that poulin martin and spurgeon also made the nhl. get your facts straight im guessing reading the article would help. 2 plus 3 equals 5

      • Hey db, I manage things around here and I just wanted to take a sec and thank you for coming by the site and also for taking the time to share some facts. It’s readers like you that make this a more vibrant place. Thanks for sharing your time with us.

  9. just so you know there are 3 other players from islanders 2008 draft class that made the nhl. kevin poulin in 5th round , matt martin 5th round and jared spurgeon 6th round with minnesota. on top of petrov in the 3rd round we also got donovan in the 4th round and ullstrom in the 4th round so that was a great draft. we got a 2nd/3rd line center in bailey top 3 defenseman in hamonic top 6 winger in petrov top4 d in donovan 3rd line tough guy martin and starting goaltender kevin poulin.

    • Thanks, db. I got myself confused for a second and mixed up a few players with the wrong drafts when I wrote this. Even us bloggers make mistakes here and there. Appreciate the assist, there.

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