Despite Consistent Fan Criticism, Bailey and Hickey Remain Key Pieces to Islanders
Typically if you peruse around an Islanders forum or comment section, you’ll find complaints about players. No matter if they win by eight or get shutout, they’ll be there. In respect, players have bad games, and sometimes those comments are warranted. But not many players take more criticism or trade demands from fans than Josh Bailey and Thomas Hickey. Both players have played exceptionally well so far this season — and probably have been playing that well for longer than what meets the eye.
Josh Bailey didn’t have the best start to his career. He was rushed into the league the same year he was drafted ninth overall (2008), which was detrimental in a sense to his development. However, Bailey has picked up his play considerably in the past few years. He’s found success with Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen on the second line this year, and those three are even the longest serving players on the team. Bailey looks faster than ever on the ice this year, and has gotten penalty kill time as a result of that. There’s no way to know for sure without asking him, but it seems as if Bailey took powerskating over the summer. If he can continue and become a regular penalty killer for the Isles, it’d be a huge boost seeing that they lost Michael Grabner this offseason.
Bailey’s newly added speed could help him have a breakout year, and he has three points (two goals) in six games thus far. The numbers don’t stand out to you, but his line has been a force to be reckoned in the early stages of the season. Bailey had a career high 41 points last year and was only behind John Tavares in playoff scoring. If Bailey can transform his game even further this year and shoot the puck more(!), he’ll probably be good for 20 goals at least this year.
Along with Bailey, it seems like an ever long debate about Thomas Hickey’s spot on the team. Hickey is listed as 6’0 (take that with a grain of salt), which is where most of the arguing stems from. Despite his small stature, Hickey is one of the most defensively sound players on the team today. He is a mobile defenseman that is a good skater and reliable in his own end, which isn’t helped by being paired with Lubomir Visnovsky or Marek Zidlicky. He scored in his second game of the season this year against Columbus with a nifty breakaway move, something you think you’d only see someone that was taken fourth overall do.
Hickey’s had a tough road to the NHL and the Islanders were his start in the pros, and he’s made the most of the opportunity. His play earned him a new three year deal this offseason worth 2.2 million per year. He’s not flashy and doesn’t lay big hits, but he does exactly what he’s supposed to do, especially playing with offensively minded defenseman like previously mentioned.
At the end of the day, both Bailey and Hickey are part of the Islanders core for the time being and for the future as well. Both have become solid players and will continue to improve, especially Bailey if he uses his new speed to his advantage. Some things are better than they seem.