NY Islanders: The thing Josh Bailey has in common with NY Yankees great Don Mattingly

1995 Don Mattingly
1995 Don Mattingly / Steve Crandall/GettyImages

Let's start by saying that we understand that comparing the careers of former New York Islanders forward Josh Bailey and New York Yankees legend Don Mattingly sounds a bit ridiculous.

After all, Mattingly was a 6x All-Star, won the American League (AL) batting title in 1984, the AL MVP in 1985, and captured nine gold gloves at first base. He was arguably the best player in baseball during the peak of his career. "Donnie Baseball" had his number 23 retired by the Yankees in 1997 and has been deserving of Hall-of-Fame recognition since his retirement after the 1995 season. If his back didn't curtail his career, he'd likely be in Cooperstown.

Meanwhile, Bailey, currently an unrestricted free agent, has had a nice, if not solid, NHL career since being drafted No.9 overall in 2008. He was an All-Star during the 2017-18 season, tallying a career-best 71 points (18G, 53A) when playing alongside John Tavares. While he only surpassed 50 points two other times in his career (2016-17, 2018-19), Bailey was a constant throughout the many twists and turns the organization experienced throughout his tenure on Long Island.

Bailey finished his Islanders career third on the all-time list in games played (1,057), fourth in assists (396), and seventh in points (580). There's an open debate as to whether he belongs in the Islanders Hall-of-Fame or even has his No. 12 retired alongside some of the greatest players in NHL history. I think most are okay with the first, but stop short at a jersey retirement.

Josh Bailey
Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders - Game Six / Paul Bereswill/GettyImages

However, there is one somewhat dubious distinction the two share in common. In a recent article in Forbes, contributor Jerry Beach points out that Bailey and Mattingly are two New York athletes to play 14+ seasons on one team without ever playing for a title.

After reading that, I had to read it again; really, only Bailey and Mattingly? Patrick Ewing famously never won a title with the Knicks, but the team reached the NBA Finals in 1994 and 1999. David Wright appeared in 14 Mets seasons and also played in the 2015 World Series. As for the player he'll be forever linked to, Jose Reyes played 12 seasons with the Mets, returning to the team in 2016 after signing with the Miami Marlins after the 2011 season, never reaching the World Series.

I found at least one more, Jets kicker Pat Leahy, who played 18 seasons with Gang Green starting in 1974. I don't have to tell you the Jets haven't been back to the Super Bowl since the 1969 season.

For the Isles, Derek King comes close, playing 11 seasons on Long Island, never getting further than the 1993 Wales Conference Finals. Patrick Flatley, the team's former captain, made the Stanley Cup Final as a rookie and then never again in his next 12 seasons with the team. If the Isles don't reach the Stanley Cup Fina soon, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, and Casey Cizikas could all join the list. Scott Mayfield has appeared in 11 seasons and just signed a seven-year extension.

The previous unforgiving playoff format in Major League Baseball, when only division winners played in October, meant that he didn't make a post-season appearance until his final season when the Yankees were the AL's first-ever Wild Card team in 1995. The previous year, the Bronx Bombers were in first place in the AL East when the 1994 player strike in August ended the season. His home run in Game 2 of the AL Division Round series against the Seattle Mariners was one of old Yankee Stadium's loudest moments.

Bailey appeared in six post-seasons for the Islanders, and it's where he played some of his best hockey, including memorable game-winning OT goals against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019 and 2021. He had 50 points in 71 career playoff games, above his regular season average. The Islanders made the Eastern Conference Finals playing in the bubble in 2020 and the Stanley Cup Semi-Finals the following year, losing to the eventual champion Tampa Bay Lightning in six and seven games.

The Yankees, of course, started their most recent dynasty the year after Mattingly's retirement, winning the World Series in 1996, 98, 99 and 2000. Perhaps the Isles will do the same? I think we would settle for one.