“Part of it is maturing with our younger forwards and the experience on our defense.”
In Scott Gordon’s third year as coach, he’s said he is no longer willing to call this a “rebuilding” phase. If this was Extreme Home Makeover, I‘d say they were in the putting on the siding stage or almost done but not quite finished stage.
You cannot deny the maturation of one Josh Bailey. That young boy who Garth Snow traded DOWN to get in the 2008 NHL entry draft stunning the fan base into a mass exit from the Coliseum’s Draft Party has finally arrived. Five games in, seven points, three goals (including a game winner), four assists and a plus/minus 2 rating.
With a two point game on Saturday, Scott Gordon had this to say when Newsday’s Katie Strang asked (once again) about Bailey’s game.
You know what? And I said this before the game – You just can’t, unless you’re around him and saw what we had to go through (his) first year, as far as making the decision to keep him here. We knew that if he stayed here, we could get a lot of the bad things out of his game and make the process quicker for him. If we had sent him back to Junior, he would have gotten a bunch of points, probably would’ve won the Memorial Cup with the team that won it. (He) Would’ve gone to World Juniors, but at the end of the day, right now, he could be the player we saw last year instead of being the player he is now. That’s two summers of quality off-ice training, it’s the understanding of after he makes a play, he’s got somewhere to go. He’s just so much stronger on the puck now that things are happening more for him because of the fact that he’s just older. And had he played another year against kids, it’s not going to help him as far as speeding up the process of being NHL-ready.
I was one of those people complaining about Josh being kept away from his junior team at such a young age and not being able to play in the World Juniors representing Canada. At the time, my motherly insistence over it being the wrong move for such a young boy was met with tolerant yet vehement disagreement. About now, I should be getting an “I told you so.” email.
When I was told Josh wouldn’t learn anything by going back to his junior club and that “He’s an Islander. He STAYS an Islander." I left the room shaking my head grumbling. But the much criticized move is paying huge dividends right now.
His coach can‘t say enough good things about him. “He’s such a great kid. He listens. He wants to get better. You never get any attitude from him at all. And I said this before, Garth (Snow) doesn’t get enough credit for trading down and drafting him. It’s like, all the other players that went in front of him, they would’ve been the better option, but certainly he’s shown that he was the right guy.”
Josh is the right guy for this team now -- and for the long haul.
Now, the question remains, is Nino Niederreiter in the same situation that Josh Bailey was two years ago? Do they see the same things in Nino that they saw in Josh? With only four games remaining on his try-out period, it’s still too soon to tell.