View Full Version : Drivefor5 Blog: Bailey Swimming in the Deep End

10-23-2011, 12:42
Josh Bailey will be trying to keep his head above water as the Islanders organizational depth rises, season by season

Josh Bailey, Garth Snow's first pick of the rebuild, taken 9th overall in 2008, has - somewhat - struggled since his NHL debut in the 2008/2009 hockey season. Garth embarked on this rebuild with the idea in mind to restock a prospect pool that was completely barren and bereft of future National Hockey League talent. Josh was, in turn, rushed into NHL action due to the unfortunate, and dire status of the team at that current juncture. The excitement from drafting so high combined with the lack of quality talent at the NHL level led to the premature start to a young, and promising, career. In hindsight, this sudden move really stunted his development. This was one of the very few questionable moves Garth Snow has made in his four years at the helm. Since then, he has revitalized the Islanders prospects pool to be considered one of the best in the NHL re: Hockey Prospectus ranks the Islanders' system 2nd in the NHL; Hockey's Future website ranks the Islanders' system 6th in the NHL. In other words, it's now worth talking about.

Snow has had a unique advantage (when it comes to evaluating talent) that most General Managers in the NHL don’t have: He played fourteen years - professionally - as a goaltender. He also graduated from the University of Maine with a Master's Degree in Educational Administration and a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration. Combining experience with expertise, Garth has a keen eye in landing some top end talents through the Draft, as well as with Free Agency and Waiver-wire acquisitions. The proof: Signing Mark Streit to a four year deal when he was wildly considered a defensive liability for the Montreal Canadiens, Finding Matt Moulson toiling in the AHL and giving him a shot to become the now back-to-back 30 Goal scorer he has become and claiming speedy and talented winger Michael Grabner off waivers, just to name a few.

As Bailey continues as a non-story, aside from a brief dominating performance to the start of the 2010 season, the ship has begun to sail on Josh Bailey and his "lock" on the current roster. As the system grows deeper and the line grows for talented prospects in waiting, Josh Bailey may be starting to feel even more pressure. One player Snow targeted this past draft, taken at 5th overall, may - soon - have Bailey on the outside looking in. It could be as early as next season and his name is Ryan Strome; a slick offensive center who possesses an instinctively gifted skill set, excellent hand-skills and a bag full of tricks with the puck on his stick. He has been regarded since the draft as the future of the Islanders' second line center position, right behind star John Tavares. With Bailey's struggles well documented the past three seasons, the seemingly open door with Josh will soon start to close. The coaching staff is partly to blame for bouncing Josh Bailey from Center to Wing, and back again, through his early career, while never having established linemates to learn and grow from. While he has show small glimpses of being more than able, for the most part, it just hasn’t worked at this level.

There is external evidence to suggest that Josh Bailey and the Islanders are not as close off-the-ice as previously thought. Josh and his agent were hours away from not being part of the Islanders this season (Charles Wang has a rule of not suiting up if not signed by training camp) when they came to a last minute agreement on a two year deal worth 2.1 million.

As Josh Bailey works through the kinks on a short term contract (that could be tradeable by Garth Snow), the uncertain future has to be a pressing thought on both the GM and player's mind . A majority of opinions suggest that Josh has to exceed expectations this season as the third line center for this team, with the other lines being set down the middle. Along with some fairly decent wingers on his left and right in veteran Brian Roloston, the emerging Matt Martin and streaky Blake Comeau, Josh has more experience now than he likely ever will. If this is as good as it's going to get for Josh at this level, the time is now or never. He simply has no other choice.

Garth wasn’t going to handcuff himself by handing Bailey a five year deal like he did with both Grabner and Okposo, two teammates who have shown more at this level. Garth has left his options open and will make decisions accordingly moving forward. Overall, one has to think Garth made the right decision for the future of this franchise when it comes to Josh Bailey. For Bailey himself, the two year contract could very well become nothing more than a figment of his imagination as both sides continue to look for a catalyst to jumpstart a situation that continues to grow more awkward. For Garth Snow, this is only the beginning of many more tough decisions involving the Islander youngsters, and Josh Bailey will undoubtedly sink or swim based on the merit of his play. And for a team trying to navigate upstream for the first time in decades, Josh may very well become "man overboard".

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-K. Eoviero