Three views of a new proposed divisional realignment…Looking back at misplaced optimism over this year’s Islanders… Questions for Kings GM Dean Lombardi…Are the Panthers and their blueprint for real?…Sharks need to work on the little things…A look back at Mike Grier’s days as an Oiler.

PUCK DADDY: Sean Leahy believes there’s more pros than cons to a divisional realignment proposal which would break the league into four conferences.

CANES COUNTRY: Carolyn Christians looks at how the proposal would affect the Carolina Hurricanes, who would find themselves in a division/conference with Northeastern US teams.

DEFENDING BIG D: Brandon Worley hopes the new proposal will gain support, as it would move Dallas away from the Pacific Division and into a Conference with more Central Canadian/US teams.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe the league will choose the easiest path for them, which would be simply moving the Detroit Red Wings into the Northeast Division, bumping either Philadelphia or Pittsburgh into the Southeast, and moving Winnipeg into the Central Division. While I agree much of this new proposal has its merits, and would certainly benefit the Stars, while bringing notable changes for the Hurricanes in terms of shifting up their current divisional rivalries, I have my doubts the league Board of Governors will embrace what would be, for them, a radical move. By nature, the BoG are a conservative-minded bunch, who don’t like big changes. Whatever they decide, it won’t please everyone, but the league will survive, just as it has survived previous Conference/divisional changes.

One reader recently asked why I’m so blase on this issue. It’s because I’ve been following the NHL since 1970, when it was simply the Eastern and Western Divisions, witnessed numerous changes since, and found those changes didn’t adversely affect how I viewed the game, or bought about any marked improvement to the quality of the NHL product. About the only real benefit I can see is the aforementioned proposal could cut down on travel for Western Conference teams, but that in itself won’t significantly improve their overall performance. An 82-game schedule, followed by a two month slog to the Stanley Cup, still takes a significant toll, even with reduced travel time.

I remember when folks back in the ’80s and early ’90s complained about the divisional alignments. Today, many folks who followed the NHL back then pine for the “good old days” of the old Adams, Patrick, Norris and Smythe Divisions of that period. Those who’ve grumbled over the current divisions will be pining for them down the road. Hell, when the Toronto Maple Leafs were moved to the Eastern Conference, it was cheered because it would mean more playoff matchups with traditional rivals like Montreal and Boston…except they never materialized for one reason or another. It’s these reasons that I consider realignment much ado about nothing. I’m not dissing those who follow the subject with interest; it’s just that, in the end, it won’t amount to much of a change in the product, and in time, we’ll hear folks pining for “the good old days” of the current divisions.

BACKHAND SHELF: Daniel Wagner explains why he had four good reasons to expect the NY Islanders to be a good team this season, and why they failed to pan out.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: You weren’t the only one, Daniel, I shared those reasons, and consider the Islanders one of this season’s most disappointing teams.

SURLY & SCRIBE’S L.A. KINGS BLOG: An open letter to Kings GM Dean Lombardi, asking some direct questions over what he’ll do to address the Kings weaknesses this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I daresay most Kings fans share your viewpoints, but don’t hold your breath waiting f0r an answer.

THE HOCKEY WRITERS: Mark Williams isn’t sure if the Florida Panthers are for real and if GM Dale Tallon’s blueprint will keep working, but he’s very excited about this team and its performance so far.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I had my doubts about the Panthers entering this season, but so far, they’re proving me wrong. I’m pulling for them to make the playoffs, it’s been far too long since Panthers fans had a team worth cheering for.

FEAR THE FIN: “Mr. Plank” believes the Sharks still need to polish the small details over the course of this season.

THE COPPER & BLUE: Bruce McCurdy reminisces about his favorite post-dynasty Edmonton Oiler: Mike Grier, who recently announced his retirement after 14 NHL seasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Grier never became a big star, but he was a tough, reliable checking forward with a decent scoring touch, who always gave his best and was appreciated by every club he played for. His best seasons, in my opinion, were those he spent with the Oilers. Here’s hoping he has a happy retirement.