The way I see it, they're not adding an entire lineup of Ascended items that can just be crafted or easily obtained like Exotics can. Right now (and I expect, in the future), they are disparate individual pieces hidden away under some pretty involved content that requires a lot of time, energy and luck. Things like that can't really become the "new norm" over Exotics because they're so few, far-between and hard to get for most players.
I was not surprised at all when people started proclaiming Ascended items to require a significant grind to get. ANet stated that Legendaries were something they wanted people to take six months to a year to attain. Exotics happen very quickly after level cap. Ascended are supposed to fill that gap, so it's natural to expect that they are targeted to take four to eight months.
You're right. Not immediately the new norm that everyone has to chase.
I'm thinking more long term than that. I'm imagining playing this game for the next five years, and seeing that in six months we are going to have the same problem. "I have my ascended and my legendary, ArenaNet, now what? This game needs new 'content'."
If the answer was gear with +stats now, what is going to make the powers that be decide not to do it again? ANet has agreed that people need to be retained with some power progression. Eventually, the majority of players will reach the next plateau. And the answer will be to add another step.
Five years later, provided it hasn't happened sooner, people who have been grinding out gear since launch are laughing at the silly fresh 80s who step into WvW for the first time.
Maybe not, but that's awfully optimistic, even for my usually rose tinted glasses. Common sense points to a treadmill, and "This wasn't intended to be a gear treadmill" from the developers is lacking in detail required to be reassuring.