Josh Bailey has played 14 NHL games and he has been credited with a total of 14 shots on goal. In those 14 games, he has 0 goals and 6 assists. The idea that Bailey has suddenly slam-dunk-morphed into ”a pro who should be playing against pros” instead of playing with John Tavares for his home country and against Victor Hedman for the World Junior Championship is far-fetched.
The Islanders have made a big mistake not providing Bailey the opportunity to play for Team Canada.
Of course when asked by the media the kid is going to now say he wanted to stay an Islander. If the team asked if he would like to go, he undoubtedly said the same thing. Among Bailey’s many attributes, he’s very smart. When the Islanders announced on Nov. 29 that Bailey would not return to junior, he was overjoyed when talking to a handful of reporters at the Coliseum. The 19-year old center was clear that as much as he loved Windsor, New York is where he wanted to be.
But you couldn’t help but notice that when he was asked about the WJC, his demeanor immediately changed. The exhilaration ceased and he said that he was sure whatever the Islanders decided, it would be for the best.
After beating Ottawa that night, the Islanders have lost four games in a row to fall six games below .500. Keeping Bailey here for the next three weeks, instead of watching one of their top prospects in the WJC – give him a contract and a uniform, but that’s what he still is, a prospect – is not for the best.
In response to Commenters who wondered if Bailey was even a lock to make Canada, I would not have written all this the last three days if I hadn’t done my homework. A highly reliable source at Hockey Canada told me Bailey would have been one of Team Canada’s top-two centers.
Bailey will not be playing with Kyle Okposo the next three weeks. Frans Nielsen is out. The “youth movement,” through nobody’s fault, is on hold. Jon Sim is on waivers, and there’s rumblings of another veteran being on the move before the holiday trade moratorium.
The Islanders are in a bit of flux, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Why Bailey has to be here for the next 13 games is hard to understand, unless the Islanders are merely being selfish and stubborn. If Bailey went to the WJC, there would still be 41 National Hockey League regular season games for him to play and who-knows-what after that.
For this, he’s missing the chance to play for his country in the most prestigious hockey tournament in the world short of the Olympics – and there’s a lot of people in Canada and in Europe who’ll tell you this one is bigger. For this, he’s missing the opportunity to be a leader on a team that will play every pressure-packed, Game 7-style match before a huge live audience watching on television screens across the country.
On to Pittsburgh and Columbus.