The Blackhawks are having a disastrous summer.
At least, that's the sense one gets perusing daily email and Twitter rants.
But is it true?
The Hawks certainly haven't done much, though the signing of Sheldon Brookbank helps as a sixth or defenseman. He's a great teammate, will fight anyone and loves to hit and block shots.
They made a run at Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Marty Brodeur, though not one had any intention of coming here, and the Hawks have so far decided not to overpay in free agency to fill holes with players who aren't much better than what they have.
The Hawks still need size on defense, a No. 2 center and their puck possession style has gone out of style, but those questions have gone unanswered for two years and aren't striking new issues.
As far as this particular summer goes, the Hawks may not have gotten better but they also haven't gotten worse, and several teams in their division can't make the same claim.
Detroit lost two of its best players in Nicklas Lidstrom and Jiri Hudler, Nashville lost Suter and had to match the monster Shea Weber deal, and Columbus traded Rick Nash.
St. Louis has probably had the best summer among Central Division teams, re-signing most of its free agents and knowing it will have a full season ahead under Ken Hitchcock.
But no team in the division has done anything this summer to make the others worry, and while the Hawks have been quiet, they believe their roster is better than another first-round exit.
After a 101-point season, the Hawks lost no one of significance, assuming Marian Hossa returns to health. They kept Johnny Oduya, a great regular-season player who disappeared under a physical beating in the postseason.
Their kids will be a year older. Nick Leddy, Dylan Olsen, Jimmy Hayes, Andrew Shaw and Brandon Bollig should all improve, plus there are several more youngsters, like Brandon Pirri, Brandon Saad and Jeremy Morin, on the way.
If Dan Carcillo can keep it together he brings an important element and can play on any of the four lines.
They key is certainly getting a better season from Corey Crawford, who had his sophomore slump and now must be closer to the player who was great against Vancouver in the spring of 2011 than the goalie who was good against Phoenix but let in 2 bad overtime goals.
It's fair to wonder as we sit here in August how the playoffs will be any different next spring than they've been the last two years, but if some of their young players take a step forward, that may be the answer.
It's also fair to look around the league and point out that this summer hasn't been a disaster in Chicago like it has been in some NHL cities.
So while it hasn't been a great summer, it hasn't been a bad one, either.
That's not what they're saying right now in Detroit, Nashville and Columbus.
According to capgeek.com, only nine teams have less cap space than the Hawks, who have $7.7 million available, not including Rostislav Olesz' $3.1 million.
Shane Doan would look great in a Chicago uniform but at nearly 36 he's looking for four years and $30 million. That's insane.
Bobby Ryan is on the block and would be a monster in the Hawks' lineup, but the Ducks would want two or three of the Hawks' best young players and Ryan also brings a $5.5 million salary the next three seasons.
So, yes, the Hawks need to improve, but it will take some creativity over the next month to make it happen.
From the Daily Herald's Bob LeGere in his Bears blog this week: "Devin Hester is the one and only player remaining from the 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 Chicago draft classes who is still a Bear. That's right, out of 30 players selected over four years, Hester is the only player who is still in Chicago. One out of 30."
The good cause
With nationwide blood donations at a 15-year low, there's still time to register for the inaugural "Purple Pride Blood Drive," hosted by Northwestern on Aug. 8 at the Ryan Field Stadium Club.
All registered donors will receive an opportunity to view an NU football practice, a free nonconference game ticket, access to the stadium club and a chance to win the Donor of the Month contest.
For more info, visit nusports.com or lifesource.org.
From @sportspickle: "If Roger Goodell was in charge of volleyball, he would fine the sport out of existence for excessive celebration."
From @TheFakeESPN: "NBC is almost ready to broadcast the Mark Spitz race."
And finally ...
Omaha World-Herald's Brad Dickson: "A leap second has been added to the world atomic clock. NBC plans to use the extra time to air its complete coverage of Olympic track and field."
•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.