Quad-City Mallards owner Chris Lencheski didn't really open a can of worms with the mid-week revelation he'll be keeping his options open as to which league the Mallards might call home next year.

That can has been open for a good long while.

Virtually every team in minor-league hockey is working on an open-ended league lease these days. And to hear our old friend Howard Cornfield tell it, the whole enterprise is working on borrowed time if a whole lot of ways aren't changed.

"Minor league hockey is in a state of flux right now, and all three of the Double-A leagues have their issues," said the man who built the original Mallards into one of the strongest franchises in all of minor league sports, but then watched their slow decline.

"As I have been talking about for about a decade now," Cornfield stressed, "for the sake of survival of minor league hockey, the leagues are going to have to come together and figure out a way to make things work, instead of working against each other."

Lencheski is quick to point out that pro hockey's issues extend beyond Double-A.

The National Hockey League only this week figured out what to do with the orphan Phoenix Coyotes, and Quad-City fans are fresh off a two-years'-long lesson that the ice in the Triple-A American Hockey League can be a tad thin, too.

Certainly, the hockey is better in the AHL. And Lencheski made a few hearts here skip a beat when he made it known he potentially could be convinced to sign our cities up for a second AHL hitch, providing all the numbers crunch.

Here's a hockey watcher who utterly would love to see the owner walk that talk. But here, too, is a clear understanding that those five words that follow the above comma are a very, very big mouthful.

Quad-City Sports Ventures' losses under the Quad-City Flames flag were staggering, and the price simply to buy back into Triple A just might match that mid-six-figure sum.

It's probably best to consider the AHL here a ship that has sailed.

That's not to say membership in a league whose flagship is moored in Fort Wayne is guaranteed smooth sailing, either, of course.

With the Quad-Cities as the sole exception, virtually any International Hockey League locale where Fort Wayne's Franke family tentacles do not extend - and maybe one or two where they do - amounts to seriously shaky ground.

So Lencheski's vow to consider options next

season beyond the IHL borders is pure and simply prudent.

Meanwhile, though, it is no safe assumption old traveling buddies Rockford, Peoria and Des Moines will be along for any 2010-2011 ride. And without those cities, or at least a quorum of current IHL members, it is less than a lock-solid cinch the ECHL waits with open arms.

Lencheski knows, too, it is no lock-solid cinch that said ECHL is a genuinely better alternative. Two teams folded inseason there last year, after all.

Cornfield, meanwhile, is here to tell you nothing about minor league hockey is lock-solid, now or beyond.

Some 40 pro pucks franchises that once were no longer are. And the Q-C is not among those only thanks to the offseason efforts of Cornfield, i wireless Center director Scott Mullen and, most especially, Lencheski and partner Eric Galler.

Yes. We still have a place on the pro hockey scene. What's to become of that scene, though, remains to be seen.

Here. There. Everywhere.