Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
Brian Erni and I continue our annual season review, taking a look back at the 2016-17 Islanders and analyzing each player's performance in a down season that saw the team miss the playoffs by one point.
We will be offering two reviews per week that will take us right through to the beginning of training camp in September 2017. Of course, there are a couple of things to sort out prior, such as potential trades that could alter the look of this franchise going forward and oh, yeah, that pesky John Tavares extension.
Contract details via nhlnumbers.com and stats courtesy of hockeyreference.com.
12- Josh Bailey - Forward
6-1, 210 lbs
27 years old
Contract: $3.3 million cap hit through 2017-18, unrestricted free agent
Season: 82 GP, 13 G - 43 A - 56 Pts, 12 PIM, 173 Shots, 18:22 TOI, 50.7 Corsi
Career: 639 GP, 106 G - 200 A - 306 Pts, 181 PIM, 984 Shots, 16:19 TOI, 49.0 Corsi
Bailey enjoyed the best season of his nine-year Islanders career in 2016-17, spending it playing with captain John Tavares as his centerman, and flanked by Anders Lee, who also blew up, scoring 34 goals. The results are certainly correlated, no?
The trio was outstanding from start-to-finish, at times looking like one of the best lines in the entire league. And while most of the credit deservedly should go to a top-10 NHL player in Tavares, Bailey and Lee pulled their own weight, not solely relying on their talisman.
Bailey crushed his career-high in points by 15 while scoring 13 goals -- one below his NHL career average coming into the season. His ice time jumped by three minutes per game and he also set a new career mark in shots on goal, with 173. His shooting percentage was abnormally down, at 7.5 percent, after he had been around 12 percent for his Islanders tenure.
The argument that encapsulates Bailey from the fanbase is that he is not seen as a prototypical first-line player. But he has had great chemistry with Tavares for some time now. And the captain is the one who requested the 27-year-old, Ontario native be placed on his left side. Not to mention, he is annually one of the best Islander defensive forwards.
Rushed into the league at the age of 19, thrust into a terrible situation on a terrible team which stunted his development, Bailey has had to learn the hard way and take the road less traveled to get to this point. But here he is, fresh off a 56-point season in which he finished 22nd in the league in assists.
The bigger question that lingers is how much longer is he here? Still reeling from the departure of long-term stalwarts Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, and Matt Martin, Bailey enters the final season of his contract, staring at unrestricted free agency next July. The feeling is that if he has another strong season, GM Garth Snow would be hard pressed to go upwards of 4.5 to 5 million dollars per year for Bailey.
If that is what the market suggests, depending where the team is in the standings come the 2018 trade deadline, Bailey could be one of the first Islanders on the chopping block. If a package including Josh can net them a true top line center or wing, it could be sooner than that.
IPB Grade: B: The low shooting percentage brings Bailey's grade down a bit, but it's hard to argue with the statistical results in 2017-18, whether you like him or not. With the Islanders adding Jordan Eberle this summer, it will be interesting to see where Doug Weight goes with his lines. Does he try to evenly distribute the offense and keep the Bailey-Tavares-Lee trio intact? Time will tell, but it could have huge implications on Bailey heading into his aforementioned contract year.