Take your pick.
Put ’em all together and you have Josh Bailey‘s story, a slow climb to stardom. But eventually, he made it.
And if you don’t believe me, check Josh’s arithmetic book.
During the 2017-18 season, the 28-year-old delivered a career-high in goals (18), a career-high in assists (53) and a career-high in points (71 in 76 Islanders games). Oh, and 31 power-play points (5 goals, 26 assists).
“Yeah,” Bailey told me while relaxing at his Bowmanville, Ontario home, “it’s good to look back, but now I’m ready to move forward. I’m hungry to win and I can tell you that our team is looking forward to a good camp.”
Ah, yes, and a very, very, very different camp; and I don’t mean maybe either.
“There’s a lot to like,” Bailey enthused, “and you can start with Lou. Everybody knows he’s a great person with a record to go with it. Having him leading the way could lead to great things for us. ‘Respect’ is the word that goes with Lou.”
Having already spoken with Trotz and knowing him from the All-Star Game — not to mention encounters with the Barry-led Capitals — Josh admitted that he was surprised that a Cup-winning coach would leave his champs.
And is tickled pink that he chose the Islanders.
“Trotz certainly has proven himself,” Bailey went on, “and he has a really positive attitude. I also like his personality; he’s a guy who’s easy to talk to and when we did talk, I could tell that he knows the game inside and out.”
Where Bailey will be situated — first or second line — remains a matter of conjecture and likely will be determined at the end of training camp.
Based on his personal record-breaking season, it hardly would surprise anyone to find him right back on the first line but with Calder Trophy-winner Mathew Barzal centering for Josh.
“Mat has the goods to be a No. 1 center,” Bailey asserted, “that’s for sure. Just look at last season and how he improved from the start and got better and better as it went along.
“He has a good head on his shoulders and lots of confidence. I like his chances, a lot.”
On the assumption that two-thirds of the first line comprises Bailey-Barzal, nobody could argue with the choice of Anders Lee as the third man of the trio.
When I tweeted the question as to who would be a good captain of the Islanders in the upcoming season, The Maven received as many mentions of Lee with Bailey. Which, incidentally, did not surprise Josh one bit.
“Anders is a leader; that’s for sure,” Bailey said. “Not only on the ice, but off the ice as well and in the [dressing] room. He’s not a ‘Me First’ kind of guy, but is always rooting for the team.
“I really enjoy playing with him and what I found was that he makes so many of the little — but hard — plays, creating opportunities for the other players. He does more but doesn’t get credit for a lot of those [subtle] moves.”
A key challenge facing coach Trotz centers on — yup — the second centerman. One suggestion has been Anthony Beauvillier who, at one time last season, was buried in Bridgeport. Bailey didn’t think that was the worst thing in the world.
“I expect a good season from him and see him in a position to succeed. I can tell you this; everyone likes Anthony. He’s like a kid brother to everyone on the team.”
No question, but that defense was an irritant in 2017-18 for several reasons, not the least of which was injuries to foundation D-Men such as the since exited Calvin de Haan and cornerstone Johnny Boychuk.
Some Islanders-watchers believe that a combination of the Trotz-Lane Lambert defense-first coaches and the emergence of young talent could prove the prescription for the ailing D.
“I can name two who can help,” Bailey pointed out. “Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech. Pulock has that big shot and he plays a strong game. He got more ice time in the second half of the season and responded well.
See how Ryan Pulock became the first rookie defenseman in the NHL since 2007 to record five points in a single game.
“Pelech may not have the dash of some defensemen, but he’s got smarts and he always seems to be in the right place when needed. His positioning is very good.”
What about Josh Ho-Sang who — a year ago — was a fan-favorite despite a minimum of games under his belt, One might call him The Poor Man’s Barzal if he dazzles in camp.
When all’s said and done, Bailey is bullish about teammates and the club’s chances.
“We’ve got a good group with a lot of talent,” he concluded. “There’s a lot of potential [on the team] and we’re all hungry.”
None more than the persevering and determined Bailey.
With a touch of fortitude and grim determination sprinkled in for good measure!