Josh Bailey has been a member of the New York Islanders for his entire 15-year NHL career. He’s been a player that has stepped up his game in the postseason in years past but has never been one to pad the stat sheet during the regular season.
But last season, it seemed that his thinking on the ice, regardless of having the right idea, was a bit too slow, which led to lackluster performances. Trotz elected to bench Bailey twice in 2021-22, and so far, Lambert has scratched Bailey three times in 18 games.
Ross Johnston played in his place in Monday’s 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators and half the game in the 5-4 loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday (taking out of rotation).
But during the Islanders optional morning skate on Saturday ahead of their contest against the Dallas Stars, Bailey took line rushes on the third line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Kyle Palmieri as he is expected to return to the lineup.
We caught up with Bailey following the skate to get his thoughts on being a healthy scratch.
“Just stay patient. Just hang in there. I think you obviously want to be out there. But you do what you can, you support your teammates. I think every guy in this room goes about it the right way. I’m just going to go out and try and play my game,” Bailey said. “You’re obviously accustomed to playing pretty well every other day. So I think it is what it is.”
“At this point in my career, I’ve been through these things before. You stay ready. When you get back out there, you try and make the most of it.”
As we see with NHL careers, when you are a starter for years and then a fringe starter, that usually means your career is winding down. But at 33, Bailey is not thinking like that at all.
“I’m not thinking of it that way. You know, my focus hasn’t changed over the years. It’s going to stay the same until the day I’m done,” Bailey said. “It’s just to [take it] one day at a time. Today’s a new day, and we got an opportunity here tonight.”
The first time Bailey took a seat this season was against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 22, which was scheduled to be his 998th career NHL game. Not playing meant that his 1,000th NHL game, expected to come against the New York Rangers, was pushed back a game later.
Bailey was asked about how that felt.
“I’ve long moved on since then. Really, you know, I approach it the same way. It really felt no different than it did the last couple of games,” Bailey said. “That decision was made, and I dealt with it. You move on.”
Despite not being happy with the decisions by first-year head coach Lane Lambert, Bailey appreciates the way Lane has gone about it.
“I’ve had multiple talks with Lane. That stay between us, obviously,” Bailey said. “But yeah, he’s an honest guy. And you can’t ask for much more.”
Lambert was asked about Josh Bailey during his Saturday media availability and what he wanted to see if he was back in the lineup.
“It wasn’t about his play. So we’re just expecting what we expect out of him. He’s going to contribute to the offense. Very cerebral, smart player that does a lot of good things.”
Regarding Lambert’s honest approach with players:
“Well, I just think that players, they just need honesty. As long as you’re upfront and frank with them, whether it be something they want to hear or not, at least they understand, and I think they appreciate that. All I ever wanted [as a player] was just to know where I stood and whether it was good, bad, or indifferent. Move on from there.”
“I think it’s just about being honest, and as long as the player knows what’s expected of them, then there aren’t any surprises.”