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The Worlds experience Bailey missed

“Remember, [Blues 2008 #4 overall pick Alex Pietrangelo] can still play there next year and if he ever did play next year, he would be a key guy.

The other thing that I really liked about it, he celebrated as much as any player on that team. That’s part of the experience of this thing. He’s now gone on a huge stage. That’s one of the biggest sporting events of the year in that country. That’s like the NCAA basketball, playing in the championship game and playing in it, so he’s been though it.

He’s been through the pressure of it, the team apsect of it, the winning aspect of it. It’s fabulous."

That's Blues president and chief promoter John Davidson, describing [on Post-Dispatch Blues beatwriter Jeremy Rutherford's blog] what he thinks that their hot defensive prospect got from playing -- and winning gold -- for Team Canada at the WJC.

Did the Islanders goof by not sending fellow 2008 first-rounder Josh Bailey to the holiday tourney? Truthfully, that's something we'll never know with certainty. But for those who argued the Isles were making a mistake, Davidson's description is the theory they're subscribing to.

[Disclosure: I've been on the fence about the WJC since the Isles kept Bailey in the NHL past game #9. In a vacuum, I'd have leaned toward sending him, but Garth Snow has his reasons, and at the time there were injury, development and roster reasons for thinking the Isles and Bailey needed each other. Either way, it doesn't keep me up at night.]

Other factors and unanswerables:

  • Unlike Bailey, Pietrangelo is a defenseman -- with a longer development horizon -- who was sent back to his junior team this year by the Blues.
  • Did Bailey benefit from continuity by staying, and from the training/nutrition/rehab capacities of the big club?
  • Would Bailey have helped indirectly sell a Team Canada teammate and likely future Islander (*cough* Tavares?) on the benefits of the Island?
  • Will part of Bailey always regret not having that chance to win gold on home soil? Miss that "learning to win under pressure" experience at a young age?
  • Once you're good enough to stick in the NHL as a regular, should you really be back playing with boys, in a tournament that by many reports did not feature stellar competition?

Questions we'll simply never fully answer. Nineteen-year-olds are young pups, and a lot of us think we know what's best for them. (Current Flyers leaders Mike Richards and Jeff Carter famously did their time at the WJC -- and in the AHL -- but neither of them had yet played with the Flyers, much less become NHL lineup regulars like Bailey.)

By all accounts, Bailey's one level-headed kid, so he probably will be unharmed either way. But for every slump or developmental setback in his Islanders career down the road -- and heck, the first time he has a bad playoffs -- you know this decision will be in the back of fans' minds.