This season will start the same as it has the past two seasons for Josh Bailey, playing with a center not named John Tavares. Bailey was quickly paired with the former captain and went on to have his two best NHL seasons. This season, well, there will not be a reunion.
Bailey, who had a career-high 71 points (18 goals, 53 assists) and made the NHL All-Star Game for the first time, doesn’t seemed too concerned about the lineup.
“It’ll be different [without Tavares]. You play with someone for a long time, it’s different for sure.” He told NHL.com. “But at the same time, it’s not something we haven’t gone through before.”
Tavares was good for Bailey and vice versa. In 2016-17, Bailey assisted on 12 of Tavares’s 27 goals, which breakdowns to 43%. The numbers stayed consistent last season as Bailey assisted on 15 of Tavares’s 37 goals, the breakdown is 41%. Tavares returned the favor, assisting on half of Bailey’s career-high 18 goals.
The back-to-back career seasons earned Bailey a six-year contract extension. He is currently 7th on the Islanders all-time games played list. He trails the all-time leader, Bryan Trottier, by 408 games. The 2008 first-round pick can become the Isles all-time leader by the time his contract is up.
Anders Lee-Brock Nelson-Josh Bailey still a thing in #Isles second group today.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) September 18, 2018
With Tavares fulfilling his childhood dream and heading up north, “the kid who won the Calder”, Mat Barzal, will move up to the first line. Joining him will almost certainly be Jordan Eberle and Anthony Beauvillier. Bailey and his linemate, Anders Lee will play on the second line with the enigmatic Brock Nelson. There will be a drop in numbers for Bailey.
How much of a drop off? Well, that actually depends on Nelson, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent next Summer. If Nelson, who struggled last season, can bounce back in time to get that big contract, whether it’s with the Islanders or elsewhere, would be a big boost to Bailey’s numbers.
If the trio struggles to fine chemistry, an intriguing option would be newly-signed Jan Kovar. The 28-year-old Czech center had success playing on one of the best lines in the KHL. Kovar scored 20+ goals in four of his five seasons in Russia.
But to think all of Bailey’s production came solely with Tavares would be wrong. Bailey assisted on 18 of Lee’s career-high 40 goals last season, which translates to 45%. The previous season, it was 13 of Lee’s 34 goals (38%).
Can Josh Bailey have success without John Tavares? The answer is yes.