Ever since that night in Ottawa back in 2008 when New York Islanders GM Garth Snow traded down at the Entry Draft to select Josh Bailey at No. 9, the latter has carried with him some lofty expectations.
Perhaps they were unfair. Or perhaps he simply hasn't met them yet.
Whatever the case may be, Bailey -- who will be all of 22 years old when the Isles open the 2011-12 season on Oct. 8 against the Florida Panthers -- remains eager to prove Snow and his staff were right for passing on the likes of Luke Schenn and Colin Wilson three years ago. And regardless of what the expectations of Bailey might be from the Isles' fan base, nobody has greater expectations of Bailey than No. 12 himself.
"I've never had anything but good things said to me by the fans," said Bailey, who, with 34 NHL goals, has more tallies than any player taken from that 2008 Entry Draft not named Steven Stamkos. "People have always been great to me here. As far as expectations go, people are so great to me that I think the expectations I set for myself are things that I strive for. I don't really focus on too much else. I've learned over three years in the National Hockey League that you learn to just keep your focus and not ride the ups and downs so much. That was the one thing I definitely learned a lot about last year."
Bailey started last season strong, storming out of the gate with 3 goals and 3 assists in the Islanders' first five games. But he then went 13 consecutive games without a point, prompting Snow to send Bailey to Bridgeport in the American Hockey League. Bailey returned to New York after tallying 17 points (6 goals, 11 assists) in just 11 AHL contests, but he never quite regained the form he displayed at the beginning of the season. He finished the 2010-11 campaign with 11 goals and 17 assists in 70 NHL games.
"It was obviously quite the roller coaster," Bailey told NHL.com Tuesday night. "From the start of the year, I had a good camp and I started the year hot. And then I get injured and we go through a tough spell as a team and individually. And then I go to the minors and I just tried to take the most positive approach. I think it went well, but obviously I wanted to be here.
"I came up and started well again and then I was just inconsistent the rest of the season. I think consistency is something I want to work on. But I'm not really thinking too far ahead. I'm excited for next season and I'm excited for training camp. Every year's a new year. Whatever happens the year before, you come in and it's a clean slate. I've had that approach since my first year in juniors."
Bailey admitted he doesn't know much about one of the newest members of his organization, but he expressed excitement about the Islanders using the No. 5 pick at last weekend's Entry Draft on Niagara center Ryan Strome, who racked up 106 points in 65 games this season.
"He's a very-well spoken kid," Bailey said of Strome. "Highlights always show the best plays so you can get wowed pretty easily. He had some definite wowing goals. Coming into camp, he'll be excited. It'll be the same kind of deal as my first year so it's something I can relate to. I'm sure he'll be excited and nervous. It'll be exciting to see him play."
While it's unlikely the Islanders will keep Strome on the NHL roster for the duration of the 2011-12 season, he will be competing against Bailey for a roster spot. Bailey admitted that what transpired at the draft will provide some added motivation come September.
"I think so, but you want to have that depth," Bailey said. "Every good organization has great depth. I think that's just a part of it every year when the draft comes -- you're going to get good players out of it. But I think it's a positive. Any time you can have a player like what he can bring you, it's a big positive.
"It's obviously motivation. It pushes you to be better. I think anything that can push you to be better is a good thing."
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