In the NHL, teams are constantly looking for productive partnerships between players. The Islanders have one in Anders Lee and Josh Bailey.
When building lines, NHL coaches like to, for good reason, pair players that play well together. In Anders Lee and Josh Bailey, the Islanders have a perfect working example of players that work well together.
Stylistically it makes sense. Anders Lee with 157 of his point being goals (59 percent) he’s a finisher. Josh Bailey is a playmaker, he sets up the finisher to get the puck in the back of the net. With 299 of his 445 points (67 percent) being assists, it’s abundantly clear that Bailey is just that, a playmaker.
The two have complementary styles. Styles that have been working well together for a number of years. Now that the two are playing significant minutes together under Barry Trotz, he shouldn’t be so quick to split them up.
From 2016-17 through to 2018-19, Anders Lee has been one of the best goal scorers in the NHL. With 102 goals to his name, he ranks 13th in goals over those three years. Setting him up for goals more than anyone else in that period is Josh Bailey.
Over those three seasons, Bailey received an assist on an Anders Lee goal 38 times. The next player on the list is John Tavares with 29 helpers.
Of those 38 assists for Bailey, 26 (68 percent) of them are primary assists. That’s the most through the three yeas in question. Tavares is second with 15 primary assists for Lee.
There’s a clear understanding between these two players. Bailey knows where Anders Lee is going to be and Anders Lee knows where Josh Bailey wants to put the puck. And it works.
In 2016-17, when Anders Lee hit 34 goals, the two shared the ice (in all situations) for 783:16 minutes. Josh Bailey picked up ten primary and three secondary assists that year.
It was the first time the two saw significant ice time together as then first time head coach Doug Weight tried to get the Islanders to play a more offensive style of hockey. And it worked.
That season, Lee hit a then career-high 34 goals and 52 points while Bailey also hit a then career-high 56 points.
In 2017-18, Weight kept the pair together and had them play even more. With 996:36 minutes played in all situations, Bailey picked up a primary assist on an Anders Lee goal eleven times and a secondary assist seven times.
Both had career years yet again. Anders Lee scored 40 goals and 62 points while Bailey had 53 helpers and 71 points (and an All-Star game appearance).
When Barry Trotz took over in the 2018-19 season, the two rarely played together. In all situations, the pair was on the ice for 391:39 minutes. Both had down years when compared to 2017-18.
Lee scored 28 goals and 51 points while Bailey was held to 56 points. Still, Bailey had a primary assist on five of Lee’s goals.
Keep Them Together
So far this season the two have been on the ice together for 102:06 in all-situations. But that only started recently. Before October 24, the two never played for more than 1:34 in a game.
Since being placed on a line together on October 24, Anders Lee has three goals. On two of those goals, Josh Bailey has provided the primary assist.
With Jordan Eberle now wearing a regular jersey at Islanders practice, it won’t be long before he’s ready to get back into the lineup. And his regular spot is on the right-side of Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee.
I don’t think Barry Trotz can put Eberle on that top line. Anders Lee and Josh Bailey have a good thing going right now. Not only are they scoring, but they also generate a ton of high-danger chances, you know, that thing that Barry Trotz team’s pride themselves on.
Since October 24, the duo has 16 high-danger chances for at 5-on-5, they’ve allowed 13 against. That a 55 percent high-danger chances for percentage. That’s good.
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There’s no reason to break up Anders Lee and Josh Bailey when Jordan Eberle gets back. The two are giving the coach exactly what he needs from his two top-line wingers. If it means that Derick Brassard goes down to center the third line again, then so be it.