The Miseducation of Josh Bailey?

Two points through 17 games isn't the worst point total on the season. But a nine-point pace for the season wasn't exactly what the Islanders had in mind when they drafted Josh Bailey in the first round four years ago. 

There is a popular theory going around Islanders country that management mishandled the young center, exposing him too early to the NHL game and stunting his growth.  Other fans point to his being flip-flopped form center to wing as a reason for his curious decline.

But the more logical explanation for Bailey not measuring up is that maybe he was never going to be as good as people thought he was.

There seemed to be higher than normal expectations put on Bailey coming into his rookie season. Unfairly or not, there are two reasons why people were expecting so much from the young center.

The first reason people expected so much of Bailey was because Garth Snow thought high enough of him to trade down twice before drafting him, making us believe that he was that much better than the players available to Snow between picks 5 through 8.

What people tend to overlook is the possibility that instead of Bailey being that much of a better player than the players drafted before him, maybe it's just possible that Snow didn't think any of the players drafted before Bailey were that good, making Bailey the best option of a sorry lot. Being the players drafted before Bailey, which includes fan wishlist topper Nikita Filatov, have combined for a combined 160 NHL points so far, this idea doesn't seem to be too far off.

The second reason for Bailey's high expectations was his inclusion to an Islanders roster at the age of 18 that was in need of some huge upgrades and hope for the future. Fans were thirsty for new blood to help turn around the team's sorry play, and Josh Bailey just happened to be stepping in at the time. But again, instead of Bailey being THAT good that he cracked the Isles lineup, it seems more likely that the other options at the Islanders disposal were just plain bad.

It didn't help much that Bailey was Garth Snow's first 1st round draft pick, giving Snow extra motivation to force feed Bailey down our throats, to justify both his drafting prowess and the fact that the Isles traded down twice to grab his choice.

Historically, the NHL success rate at the number 9 spot in the draft doesn't bode well for Bailey's future either. Here is a list of the players drafted at the number 9 position in the draft between 1989 and Bailey's draft in 2008:

Forwards:

 

 

Logan Couture

Robert Petrovicky

Tuomu Ruutu

Todd Harvey

Josh Bailey

Jamie Lundmark

Patrick Poulin

Michael Rupp

Brett Lindros

Petr Taticek

James Sheppard

 

 

 

 

Defenseman:

 

 

Dion Phaneuf

Nick Boynton

Kyle McLaren

Ladislav Smid

Jason Marshall

Ruslan Salei

John Slaney

Brian Lee

 

 

 

 

Goalie:

 

 

Brett Krahn

 

 

Besides Logan Couture's rookie season last year, the best offensive total out of the number 9 spot in the past 20 years is defenseman Dion Phaneuf's 17-43-60 season. The roster above is a group that in each of their primes, believe it or not, would have serious trouble beating the Islanders today. And seeing how poorly the Isles have played this year, that's saying a lot.

The fact of the matter is, drafting at the 9 spot in any draft is a crapshoot, especially when you choose to slide down that far. The chances of Josh Bailey ever becoming an above average player in this league was low before he ever stepped on the ice. Heck, his chances of being a serviceable NHL player was 50/50.

The Islanders have been patient with Bailey.  Despite his lack of production this year, he has yet to be a healthy scratch, although this could be due to a lack of depth at center on the NHL roster.  Even so, it could also be a little persuasion from the top that has kept Josh in the lineup.

It's time to stop blaming the Islanders' handling of Josh Bailey and start looking at the cold hard facts. I realize he is still very young, but at this point it may be better to look at Bailey like every other player drafted at the number 9 position: A project who will most likely never turn into the player we hope he'll become.

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