As is often the case when it comes to this franchise, the Islanders need their fans once again.
Thursday night. For John Tavares.
There should be no mistaking this. If you care about keeping Tavares in orange and blue, this is a code red.
The Islanders' home finale should be about Tavares and nothing else. All energy must be devoted to telling the captain how you feel about him. When he's considering life with other franchises, have Tavares do so with your roars still reverberating in his ears.
There's no reason to focus on anyone or anything else. By now, ownership is well aware of the sentiment of 99.9 percent of its justifiably angry fan base that Garth Snow must go. No matter what ownership's decision is, it has been made. Another night of Snow chants while the Islanders are beating the Rangers one more time is not going to impact how Jon Ledecky moves forward in making his hockey operations department "world-class."
In a perfect world, this night for Tavares would feature a game against any team except the one that plays eight miles away. The NHL schedule-maker must have hoped this Islanders' irregular season home finale between rivals would be a massively-important matchup. But it's not even crucial for the sake of the lottery, because Rangers draft director Gord Clark -- for better and sometimes for worse (Dylan McIlrath) -- almost always goes off the board. Whoever the Islanders want to draft with their own or Calgary's lottery pick, it's a safe bet that Gordie has someone else in mind.
Besides, with the Rangers also far out of the playoff picture, it's unlikely Blueshirts fans are scouring StubHub and looking to take over the Barc. This should be a very pro-Islanders crowd. Sad as it is, this Islanders-Rangers game amounts to not much more than a scrimmage. Perhaps that's appropriate, because now the evening can serve completely as a testimonial for Tavares.
While we can quibble about how Tavares and his agent, Pat Brisson, approached the player's public positioning all season, make no mistake: Tavares warrants a night to remember. From the moment the Islanders won the draft lottery in 2009, Tavares has been honorable in his devotion to the Islanders. He has been a true franchise player. The Islanders -- and especially Snow -- have been fortunate to have him for these nine years.
Right now, optimism is not high that they'll have him for another eight. It is impossible to interpret his comments over the last few weeks as anything except the views of a star athlete intent on participating in the listening period in late June. After another two years of watching the playoffs from home, Tavares is not going to be criticized by anyone should he opt to hear if other teams have better ideas.
Still, the Islanders are not out of the running, and just because Snow failed to do his job doesn't mean everyone else should shrug their shoulders and make the mistake of assuming Tavares is not coming back.
My suggestion is simple: every time Tavares is on the ice Thursday night, fans should stand and cheer from the beginning until the end of his shift, from the anthem until he leaves the ice after the final horn.
Don't make this moment about letting Tavares know how you feel about the current state of the team, its incompetent general manager, tone-deaf (so far) ownership, and the lack of negotiating by either side.
Just let Tavares know what he means to you. Make it loud and clear.
At this point, you may be the only thing standing in the way of him saying goodbye.