After giving General Manager Roger Crozier high marks for effort in his draft-day maneuvering, it must be pointed out that the Washington Capitals are at least a few more steps away from being a contender in the tough Patrick Division.
Washington's basic problems remain. The club has too many sixth defensemen and too many inconsistent goaltenders. Up front, the addition of Milan Novy, Ken Houston and Alan Haworth will solidify things, but it would have helped the team to acquire Ron Sutter to move in at right wing with Ryan Walter and Dennis Maruk.
Of the defensive corps, only reliable Rick Green can be considered a first-line National Hockey League performer. With Peter Andersson apparently leaning toward staying in Sweden, it will take the return of the real Paul MacKinnon or a dramatic breakthrough by Darren Veitch to lift the backline above mediocrity.
Green and either Lee Norwood or Doug Hicks figure to man the left side, with draftee Scott Stevens an occasional fill-in. Veitch, Terry Murray and Timo Blomqvist have the edge on the right. That leaves MacKinnon, Greg Theberge, Randy Holt and Tony Camazzola facing a training-camp battle, with Eric Calder probably destined for another year of junior hockey.
If Coach Bryan Murray possessed a reliable crystal ball, he could overcome his defensive problems by starting a hot goalie each night. Unfortunately, one never knows whether Pat Riggin or Mike Palmateer will be great or grating. Dave Parro is the most consistent of the three, but he has a disturbing habit of giving up one bad goal almost every night. Al Jensen and Rollie Boutin are likely to start the season in Hershey, with Peter Sidorkiewicz returning to his junior club at Oshawa.
Up front, Murray already is contemplating an intriguing unit of Bobby Carpenter, Novy and Mike Gartner. Walter-Maruk and Haworth-Bengt Gustafsson look like two-thirds of the other lines, with the right-wing spots to be filled from among Chris Valentine, Bobby Gould, Houston and Brent Pascal.
Glen Currie should stick as a penalty killer, but unless training camp boosts their status, it will be the sweet smell of chocolate for Gaetan Duchesne, Lou Franceschetti and Torrie Robertson, more junior play for Jim McGeough and Mike Siltala.
Crozier promises additional moves, claiming that he now has accomplished five of 10 tasks he assigned himself to complete by September. It would be nice if one of those remaining would be a trade similar to the one Philadelphia pulled off Wednesday--goalie Pete Peeters for Boston defenseman Brad McCrimmon.
Crozier still must negotiate Novy's release from the Czech hockey federation; satisfy Hicks, whose contract expires July 1, and work out new pacts with Walter and Gustafsson, who have option years remaining.
Murray must blend the players into a cohesive unit quickly enough to mount a fast start in October. The franchise cannot survive anything close to another of those 1-14 getaways.
"The objective of all these moves was to upgrade the depth of the organization and to obtain people who can make major contributions to the hockey club," Murray said. "We added five players who fit that description. Now we have to get performances from these people we've picked up, obviously."
It will be no easy assignment, obviously.