Went up to chat with a few of the Isles' minor-leaguers last week, most notably Josh Bailey, for a feature that ran in yesterday's paper but has yet to materialize on the website. I'll link when it does.
Until then, here's part of the interview I did with Bailey on his adjustment to the AHL:
You’re almost like an NBA player who went from high school straight from the pros and missed out on college. Is there an atmosphere here that just feels a little more relaxed? Something that you could have used?
Yeah. It’s definitely more relaxed. I think it’s in a good way, though. I think there’s not as much stress. You come to the rink and it’s fun, and practices are great and games are great. I think it’s good to have that feeling back of not so much of a job. Sometimes it -- you know, hockey’s never really been a job to me, but there were times throughout the last couple years where it’s felt that way, and I think that goes along with the territory. I think it’s like that for any team at certain points in the year. But I think coming down here has been great. I think I’ve made the most of it so far.
What specific things in your game have you rediscovered here, or found things that you think maybe had dropped off a little bit up there?
My passing. I think I always [as a] junior growing up was much more of a playmaker than I was a goal-scorer, so I think that’s probably been the main thing, is just getting those passes back and using patience and smarts. I think obviously it’s a different game here, but I think it’s definitely been good to get that aspect back to my game.
Are you upset with Garth Snow or the Islanders in any way?
I think there’s obviously -- At the end of the day, the NHL is still a business. I think for me, personally, I think Snowy has always – we’ve always had a great relationship. He’s the one who drafted me. He’s the one who brought me into the league at a young age. He’s never done anything for the wrong reasons, so I think I’d like to still believe that. We still have a great relationship through this. It hasn’t changed anything. I still love all of the guys up there, still get along with everyone and still get along with Garth just the way I did before. I think, me personally, it’s not really up to me to worry about the business side of things. I have an agent, and that’s why we pay him the money to worry about that stuff, so for me, it’s just been about playing hockey and getting my game back.
Do you feel like you’re ready to go back? When they called up Rhett Rakhshani were you thinking, “This could be me. I’m ready to go back there”?
You know what, I didn’t even know anyone got hurt and then when we get to the rink obviously Rhett was there and I knew he got called up. He was obviously very deserving. I love playing with him; He’s a great player. Like you said, though, I think if I thought… It’s tough to… I obviously want to be in the NHL. That’s why all the guys play in this American League, is to make it to the NHL. But for the time being, it’s been great, like I said. I was very happy for Rhett. He played a good game and [is] very deserving.
After nine games, are you feeling that you're ready to go back?
Yeah. I think obviously. That’s been my team for over the past two years and a lot of those guys are the guys that I’ve grown up with and became the person I am today with. You obviously want to be there to go through the tough times and the good times. It’s just… You can’t be there to help, and I think that side of it’s frustrating. But at the same time, you know they’re going through a tough time. It’s definitely been a lot more pleasant being around this rink, I’m sure. But then again, it’s the NHL and that’s the [league] you want to play in. That’s what you dream about playing in growing up. You don’t dream about playing in the American Hockey League; you dream about playing in the NHL. I think obviously that’s where any one of us on this team would like to be.
Do you have time to sit and think about the future and feel like in the long run this will help, or right now you’re just working hard, playing, practicing?
What do you say to the guys with the Islanders you've been in touch with?
Yeah, I think it’s tough. You cant just feel the… You can just feel it when you talk to them – the frustration. It’s almost just the pain of no one likes to lose. And the way that things have been going with the losing when I was there and how it’s continued, it’s mind-blowing. Those guys work hard like everyone works hard. It’s just frustrating. I think the best way I’ve described it, it felt when I was there -- like the last couple of games, anyway – it felt like going into the game that it was David vs. Goliath. That’s a terrible mindset to have and it takes time to break out of that. You need to slowly regain your confidence after that, but it’s frustrating. I was back there for a couple nights and hung out with a few of the guys when I had to go get changes of clothes and stuff and I think the key when it’s like that [is] when you get away from the rink you have to forget about the rink. It’s really tough to do, but you need to mentally just check out for the day when you work’s done and kind of let everything refresh and get ready for the next day.