Happy Thanksgiving to the Americans. Happy Battle of Ontario to the Canadians. "Sorry about the whole economic crisis thing" to the rest of the world. Our bad.
Today I write in thanks for Josh Bailey. I promise the Islanders 2008 first-round pick is staying with the big club, or my name ain't Nathan Arizona. Bailey's played 8 games. Friday afternoon will be his 9th. The Islanders have given no indication they'll be sending him back to juniors before game 10. After a start much delayed by a preseason injury, Bailey has proven himself too valuable and too mature for the club to stomach sending him away.
At least for the sake of this season, anyway. He's not piled up the points yet, but Bailey's passing and hockey smarts -- and his aid to the power play -- have been quite impressive since making a tentative debut in Philadelphia. You can tell the points will come. He has demonstrated every attribute Isles management raved about this summer, when explaining why they turned a would-be Filatov or Schenn pick into Bailey and several more assets.
As one scout told Chris Botta last night (same link as above):
His sense with and without the puck is outstanding. It’s why he was in on each of the first three goals and had assists on two. ... He’s good along the wall, in cycles and in traffic with the puck. Having that kind of poise at 19 in his eighth NHL game is pretty impressive. And with that sense comes vision. He sees the ice really, really well.
|2008 - Josh Bailey||8||0||5||5||0||6||0||0||0||0||8||0.0|
With Mike Sillinger only now nearing a return, with Frans Nielsen out for the next 2-3 months, with Mike Comrie's return indefinite, the Islanders' day-to-day offense depends on having Bailey keep doing what he's doing.
Since the Islanders have to make this decision now -- rather than a few weeks into the season -- the variables involved are even clearer. He clearly helps the team; he gives them a chance to make a year of it; he clearly has the maturity and attitude not to be overwhelmed at age 19.
This could harm the Islanders long-term, however: There's the matter of burning a year of his contract, and making him a UFA at an even earlier age. There's the matter of maybe, possibly, he'd excel even further in his career if he had one more year of development at a level where he can take over. And there's the matter of his presence making the Islanders a better team and thus preventing them from getting a higher draft pick next year. (Alternatively, if they should still land a Tavares-area pick, that means Bailey's just stuck around for a very bad team season in the NHL.)
But all glib Tavares/Hedman jokes aside, you can't tank. You just can't. So considering they've held Bailey around the NHL club for this long, and considering he's done absolutely nothing to indicate he deserves to be in junior rather than on Long Island, keeping him is the call they have to make.
They started down this path by keeping him on the roster after training camp -- and ironically, his injury and rehab process around the club may have helped "train him" at the NHL level before the games-played clock started ticking down. This weekend we'll probably hear the Josh Bailey Era has officially begun.
(Of course, now that I've written this, I fully expect the jinx to be in effect and to hear he's hurt tomorrow or hear he's going back to juniors for "what's best for Josh Bailey.")