Josh Bailey and Brian Strait to play vs. Devils

Fans of the New York Islanders will be flocking to Newark, New Jersey tonight to watch their favorite team take on the Metropolitan division rival Devils this evening at 7pm. As an added draw the lineup will include the fan base’s two favorite players! That’s right, none other than the heroes of Hempstead Turnpike themselves, Josh Bailey and Brian Strait!

Obviously, I joke, my tongue set firmly in my cheek, I kid, I jest, I have some fun with you all; but seriously, those two men are in the lineup tonight.

Before all of you get out your verbal and written weaponry and storm the Rock, and twitter, like they are Helm’s Deep let’s take a moment to breathe. Relax. Chill.

Why do you all despise these men so much? What have they done to draw such ire from the fan base? The answer is really, well, nothing. Certainly not this season.

Let’s start with Bailey, shall we? Josh Bailey, from a points per game and goals per game standpoint, is playing above his career average so far this season. His 13 points in 28 games played is far from exemplary, but averaging nearly a point every other game playing on the second or third line is no reason to jump all over a player, especially one that could not be considered underachieving by producing at that rate. He is a legitimate NHL middle six forward, and that’s all the Isles are asking him to be.

It is in no way the player’s fault that the franchise traded up to select him ninth overall in 2008, and, frankly, the Isles didn’t make a terrible mistake in doing so. Only five players drafted in the first round that season have more NHL points than Bailey, three were drafted before him. Yes, the Isles could have landed Erik Karlsson or Jordan Eberle without moving down, but as we know the draft is a crapshoot. Bailey has more points than any player drafted within four spots of him in either direction, in reality those were the players that were direct competition with Bailey for that selection. Of those players, he’s been the most productive at the NHL level.

As for Brian Strait, the means in which the Islanders acquired him is absolutely not a factor in the collective sighs he receives from the fans whenever he touches the ice as he was a waiver wire pickup from the Pittsburgh Penguins, meaning he was brought in for literally nothing.

So why the venom spewed his way? He has only skated for the Islanders 19 times this season. He is the team’s seventh, or eighth, or even ninth, defenseman on the depth chart (depending on how you want to look at it), not a position that usually leads people to have high expectations. Teams don’t have Nicklas Lidstrom dressed in a suit watching the games from a press box every night, folks. Strait is there for a reason. He is used only as a short term stop-gap player, and in that role he performs at a reasonable level. If he were given a greater responsibility, then I would have an issue with him as well.

It is also apparent by Garth Snow‘s actions that when a d-man is going to be out a prolonged amount of time that the organization prefers rookie Griffin Reinhart to be recalled from the AHL to fill in than to employ Strait on a nightly basis.

There is one factor that the two have in common, however, which can lead fans to anger. Multi-year contracts. Both Strait and Bailey are signed for multiple seasons. Bailey inked a five year deal worth $16.5 million, Strait a three year pact for $2.325 million. Neither is an albatross by any means, especially given the Isles immense amount of cap flexibility. Neither will effect the Islanders ability to re-sign Johnny Boychuk at the season’s end or bring in a high priced player at the deadline or in free agency. Therefore, the contracts should not be an issue either.

I am aware that #IslesTwitter is a fantastic and volatile place, ripe with both passionate love and explosive hatred. All I’m looking for is the hate, love and indifference to be pointed in the right direction. Aim the gun outward Isles fans, embrace this hockey team, all of it, it’s the best one we have had in a long, long time.

As always, I invite you to tell me why I am dead wrong in the comments.