Late Season Surge for Josh Bailey

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As the Islanders 2013-14 season coasts toward the finish line, Josh Bailey is enjoying a bit of a scoring frenzy down the stretch. He’s flying under the radar, but he’s right on target. And with very little attention or fanfare, he’s been doing his best to prove to his detractors there’s more to his game than he’s shown throughout much of the campaign.

Bailey has drawn the ire of much of the fan base this season for what could be characterized as long stretches of indifferent play. Yet for all the grief he takes on a daily basis, he’s quietly piled up 8 points in his last 10 games (2 goals, six assists) counting two points in Tuesday’s romp over the Florida Panthers – a goal plus a helper on Travis Hamonic’s third of the year. Prorated over a full season that’s better than a 60 point pace. Maybe not huge numbers, but considering the rave reviews his former linemate Kyle Okposo has gotten for having amassed 69 points it’s not bad. Granted, it’s only two goals, but people seem to forget that he came into the league as a highly touted playmaker; he never was a sniper, and almost certainly never will be.

That, by the way, is not in any way a knock on Okposo. He has received (and deservedly so) many plaudits this year for his complete game; offense is just one facet of what he does for the team. It’s simply a comparison of scoring pace, and an indication of what Bailey is capable of.

The day to day desire isn’t there yet. It may never be; even in Junior he wasn’t exactly known for extreme levels of intensity. The thing is, he’s capable of a ton of offense. He notched seven points in the team’s first seven games of the season. He’s only four points off his career high of 35 set in 2009-10, his second season with the Isles. He doesn’t shoot nearly often enough (he’s taken just 88 shots through 70 games this season) which accounts for some of his lack of goal production. Not that he’s incapable of scoring; he combined with Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen to score one of the prettiest goals I’ve ever seen during that 6-1 romp over the Phoenix Coyotes back on October 8. The goal, his first of the season and his fourth point in just the team’s third game, was a teaser for what many hoped was the beginning of a career year for Bailey. Alas, it was not to be.

One significant knock against Bailey is his play away from the puck. On many occasions this season he would gain possession of the puck only to dump it into the attacking zone and turn away from the play, as though unsure how to proceed. He played a cautious – again, some might say indifferent – game through much of the team’s November woes and never really got back into a groove until recently, when the points started coming again.

I feel I must, in the interest of full disclosure, admit to having suggested a trade recently involving Bailey, though not necessarily for the same reasons that most of his detractors share. Rather, my thought was a deal involving Bailey moving to Toronto in exchange for goaltender James Reimer would be a nice square deal, straight-up. Those who know me would tell you that is far less an indictment of Bailey’s production than simply my opinion he’s worth a potential starter. The Isles desperately need a number one between the pipes beyond this season, a slot the unflappable Reimer can more than adequately fill. And who knows, maybe a change of scenery is all Bailey needs to get back on track and start producing at a level commensurate to his skill level.

On the other hand, the Isles could keep Bailey, and reap the benefits when he comes into his own. After all, he’s locked up for many more years so the Isles obviously feel he can form part of the core. Maybe he’s got some mental aspects of the game to sort through. Or maybe he’s just a late bloomer. Whatever the case, this writer chooses to focus on the positives where Josh Bailey is concerned.

- JP (@Joe_SoWhatElse)

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