I get it. Rome wasn't built in a day.
But as I sat and watched the Capitals and Canadiens battle it out last night, on thing was as clear as ice: the Canadiens are trending in the right direction. They have more skill up front than in recent years (yes even with out Dach) and their young forwards have plenty of promise. They are also strong up the middle (Hughes acquiring good but also versatile players like Monahan or Newhook is paying off).
But there are few if any budding star forwards that can change a game with one incredible shift (sorry Cole, you may get there one day) a la Kaprizov, McDavid, Draisaitl, Mathews and company. This team projects to be a balanced group up front in a couple of years (once Slaf develops into a legit power forward, Dach into a 1 or 2 C, as well as players such as Roy and perhaps Heinemann become top 3 line contributors).
But again, no super duper stars in the wings (obviously this could change quickly with say a top 4-45 pick again in this upcoming draft). And let's be honest we aren't signing any big name free agents (not necessarily because they wouldn't want to play here but mostly because few if any mid-to-late 20s stars ever even hit the market).
So for this team to be able to compete with squads boasting star forwards, they will need an offensive star or two on defense.
You could just see the predictability, lack of elite passing or shooting ability from the Habs' D group last night. Sure, players like Matheson can generate some O with their skating but he isn't the type of offensive juggernaut elite teams typically have. Savard, Kovacevik, Harris are all reliable, serviceable defensemen, but little gets generated from the backend when they are on the ice. Kaiden Guehle and Arber Xhekaj look promising no doubt, but again, they project to be solid 2-way d-men (just don't see the elite puckhandling/moving ability).
Hard to predict what will become of Lane Hutson given his size. David Reinbacher may well end up being a pillar on defense but it's hard to see him being a Hughes, Makar, or Fox. And Justin Barron and Logan Mailloux, while having shown flashes of offensive abilities, remain, thus far, very "suspect" when it comes to their defensive games (and hence there is no guarantee they will be NHL regulars at some point).
This lack of offense from the back-end was evident again last night and the sub par power play of the last couple of years, has to be a concern for management. HUGO (if you are just joining us we're talking about Hughes & Gorton) will need to address this area of concern for this team to be able to be competitive given the lack of star power up front.