As Mikahil Grabovski returns from IR, Josh Bailey takes his place with a broken hand suffered against the Boston Bruins. What to do with Bailey come December 1st?
Bailey had started the season in a torrid fashion, for him, compiling 4pts in 7 games and sitting 10th in team scoring. While a top ten placement on one’s own team does not sound like a hot start the Islanders are tops in league scoring at just under 4 goals per game. Grabovksi’s return puts a similarly producing center back into the line up with little or no fluctuation.
As Bailey’s impact has been felt in a third line role with Frans Nielsen, and either Nikolay Kulemin or Ryan Strome on the right wing, his defensive attributes have changed for the positive. This could be attributed to being Nielsen’s left wing, or playing catch up with new Islander Kulemin, but his play in transition has led to many more scoring chances than he had been used to.
But with his injury comes the recall of Anders Lee. The young forward made an immediate impact against the Dallas Stars along side Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome, scoring the game’s first goal. The “Kid Line” finished the game with 4pts (G, 3A). This should remain intact for Tuesday night’s home game against Winnipeg.
What happens with Bailey upon his return from injury? Yes, it’s only one game after the injury. Yes, anything can happen in a month. What stands out more than Lee’s single game production is the fit he is with Nelson and Strome in comparison to Bailey feeling more like a beneficiary of Nielsen’s natural two-way abilities. Lee is the big body and low scorer that complements Nelson’s all around game and Strome’s playmaking. As with all roster speculation there is always a degree of bias. Still, what to do with Josh Bailey upon his return?
First glance is to hold tight and see if the hot start was not an aberration. While Frans Nielsen and company have brought out the best in Bailey, that does not mean Bailey has been a passenger. The second half of holding tight is keeping the forward pool as deep as it is now. The lines that held the Bruins at bay, and the ones that led the offensive output against a powerful Dallas club, will need reinforcements. Keeping a productive Bailey around, and youth in Bridgeport at the ready, is a benefit for the club.
Unless…option three. Trade him shortly after his return if he continues to produce. If Colin MacDonald can replicate Bailey’s role and output then Bailey is an asset to be moved. And certainly worth more than he would have been at the 2014 Draft. But this is not the disgruntled Josh Bailey from last season and he’s playing like a new man. Yet the question of his future remains.