I really wanted to make a reply in the Bailey 25U25 thread, but I just created too much information to put it in a single repy so I made this fanpost.
I think if we are gonna talk about Bailey, we should try and speculate on as much as possible.
First, let’s try to make some NHL comparions to Bailey’s career and talk a little about them:
Similar players with similar nhl paths and a similar age to Bailey:
Do you consider Kyle Turris more of a bust/leaning-towards then a good pick?
Do you consider James Sheppard more of a bust/leaning-towards then a good pick 3/4yrs post draft?
If Strome 4yrs ahead hadn’t surpassed 35pts while having played 3 full nhl seasons, is he a bust/leaning-torwards bust?
All similar comparisons, without the Bailey name factor. What do you think about them?
What do you think of Bailey 3yrs in compared to Sam Gagner 3yrs post draft?
What do you think of Bailey 3yrs in compared to Voracek 3yrs post draft?
What do you think of Bailey 3yrs in compared to Brandon Sutter 3yrs post draft?
What do you think of Bailey 3yrs in compared to Okposo 3yrs post draft?
All fair comparisons and what do all of them lean towards: Bailey progressing noticeably slower then he should, Bailey likely being more of a bust as an nhl player then a success(let alone as a top 10 pick), and Bailey likely having a lower overall ceiling then everyone expected. Never mind the top 10 draft status, he is extremely likely NEVER gonna live up to that. So take that out of the equation when we evaluate him.
Let’s start from his draft year, nice totals but nothing out of this world, I’d say given his draft year junior performance and scouting reports, projecting him as a 20goal/50pts 2-way center is completely fair, no?
Then we can concede he was rushed to the nhl, but was he really thrown to the lions? Let’s run through his relcorsiqualityofcompetition for each year to find out:
08/09: 3rd line competition/8th-toughest among regular forwards on the team
09/10: weak 3rd line competition/sheltered/10th toughest among regular forwards on team
10/11: 3rd line overall competition
So overall, Bailey has been far from thrown to the wolves. Yeah, 3rd line competition was likely too much for bailey in his rookie year, but 3yrs later, he’s still playing the same 3rd-line/low-
pressure/lower-competition role and is still struggling noticably.
Bailey refuses to shoot the puck for one reason or another, thus leading me to believe he’ll never be a 20goalscorer unless he has some higher-end playmaker on his line force-feeding him scoring chances, and even then it might be questionable. The more and more I think and look over bailey and his “game” and his numbers, the more and more I realize he will likely never be that 20goal scorer. His 16goal year was likely somewhat a fluke given his high shooting percentage and low amount of shots while playing with Okposo. Bailey doesn’t like to shoot the puck for one reason or another, and he likes trying to create-opportunites/make-passes then he does to shoot the puck himself. That one opportunity for a one-timer from point blank in the Pitt game was a good example of this. That was an excellent opportunity for a goal, a should be 1-timer, but he just didn’t pull the trigger like he should have.
So on to Bailey’s passing/assist-offense. It’s clear, this needs to be his bread and butter for him to be a successful offensive player. Bailey doesn’t have Strome-esque hands, so for bailey, most of his assists comes from his smarts/creativity. Then again, his OHL numbers “may” have been inflated from lots of PP time and not a lot of 5-on-5 success and he may have never been the offensive threat we’d hoped him to be, but I can’t find that information. His stats also may have been inflated from him “being in the zone”, as we saw in early 10’. A playmaking center is “expected” to create opportunities for his linemates, not the other way around, and Bailey just hasn’t shown that at the nhl level yet. It worries me, because maybe he just can’t read the flow/game/linemates to do this. I don’t know.
Overall, I still think he has decent offensive potential in him, but the more I watch the more I doubt he still has the abilitiy in him to do it, especially if he seems to have only 2 modes: force stupid things playing at 120% or play overly cautious. Neither of those things lead to success offensively, so he may never fulfill his potential there.
Defensively, he is not bad, but he is far from a good checking center. You want to see what a good checking center is, look at Nielsen/Kesler/Bolland/Malhotra/Staal. Can Bailey become a good checking center? Maybe, but let’s not get in over our heads. Just because Bailey’s offense isn’t panning out, doesn’t mean he automatically becomes Malhotra/Handzus when he focuses more on defense(if he isn’t already). 1st-off, Bailey is barely producing 25-30pts seasons against 3rd line competition, you turn him into a checking center against top 6 competition right now and
I’d bet money on him barely throwing up ~20pts seasons while being very unsuccessful in that role. Wayne Merrick, nice name to throw out, logical comparion? Not close right now.
To be a “good” defensive/checking center, you need to:
1.Be good at taking faceoffs(at least 50%): Bailey right now is not there, he’s not really close right now.
2.Be adequate offensively while being able to shutdown opposing team’s top 6 forwards: Bailey can’t shutdown 3rd liners successfully right now, let alone make himself barely adequate
offensively. He ain’t close yet.
3.Smart with the puck on your stick and good at “takeaways”: Bailey has shown the ability to do this, all he has to do is keep it up and not make stupid decisions with the puck.
4.Play with some fire, play every shift hard hard hard, somewhat agitatively, and never shy from contact: I don’t know. Bailey does play hard, but unorganized hard. And I just don’t see Bailey having or adopting those agitative qualities that make Kesler and Staal and Bolland overly effective.
5.Size and speed helps: Bailey is adequate there.
6.Be decent along the boards: Not sure how to rank Bailey there, adequate maybe? Weak? I certainly wouldn’t call Bailey a board winning battler.
Simple evaluation, you can’t just turn any adequate to slightly above adequate defensive center/forward into a checking center because their offense doesn’t pan out as expected for a number of reasons as stated. Could Bailey become a good defensive/checking center? If so, I believe it’s gonna take 2-3yrs, but I’m not enthusiastic at all at that happening. He’ll never reach Fransian level and likely barely be average if he does develop some fire and better faceoff/offensive skills.
In conclusion, Bailey is a player that may never be good enough at any role to make himself worthy of a regular nhl position. Sure he is only 22, but 3yrs of NHL experience is 3yrs of should-be growth and advancement, but in the past 3yrs Bailey has made very little to no progress(maybe backwards) offensively, but has got a little bit better defensively(nothing amazing, he is not great defensively yet). But right now, he’s not good enough offensively for a scoring role
and he’s not good enough defensively for a checking role, he’s a sub-par 3rd liner, arguably a 4th
line forward. I don’t know if he will ever find his role, but offensively it looks and I feel like he may never get there, and if he does it will likely be from optimal conditions (1st line PP time,
playing alongside a great goalscorer(if Comeau wasn’t already good enough), or getting a ton of ice time). And defensively, I don’t think he has the abilities to make himself a good checking center. He’s still young, but I don’t know. I think it’s around time to decide what Bailey wants to do with himself or Cap to decide his future. Make him a defensive center or try to elevate his offense somehow. Leaving him mediocre in both categories “at best” is best for no one. But I have little faith in Bailey turning this around because I believe it’s somewhat a mental/guidance issue and somewhat a less-potential-then-expected issue. And longterm, I don’t think he should be a center, I think he is over his head in a center position, if he moved to wing fulltime, maybe he can even turn his game around(offensively and defensively) in a less pressure role with someone else centering his line.
Some Draft scouting reports:
Areas to improve: "He needs to add a little bit more grit to his game, he is a tireless worker and if he can get in there and grind it out with some of the other players that he currently plays against in the OHL, that will be good experience for when he reaches the NHL."
“Weakness: Skating needs to improve if he is to play the same solid two-way
game at the next level. He also could use an added physical element as he
frequently backs off his aggressive play when pushed around. Improved strength
could go along way to improving both these areas.”
“Skating and competitiveness will need to improve to move to the next level.”
Not want you want to really hear about his weaknesses. “Not Gritty”, “Backs away from Physical challenges/aggressive play” “Needs to get stronger” “Needs to be more competitive”. Pretty much, everything we see(for the most part) that is wrong with Bailey’s game. Isn’t it somewhat ironic that his draft day weaknesses are very similar to his weaknesses today? While you could also add: offensive production to that list. I think he may be a lost cause. If these were his weaknesses in the past/juniors and they are still his weaknesses 4yrs forward, there may be no fixing him.
Thoughts and opinions?
PS-Please refrain from posting Bailey has XXpts in the nhl in his draft class and is XX stats in his draft class ranked. He was rushed, he’s played more nhl games than “ultimately” every other forward in his defense heavy 1st round draft class. Those numbers mean nothing.