Flames Depth - Forward Question Marks

After celebrating the club's blueline strength yesterday, it's probably a good idea to clench our teeth and consider it's forward weakness today...

As it stands currently, the Flames have one of the cheapest forward corps in the entire league: approximately 27M, or just 48% of their cap-pressed budget is invested in forwards. Only 7 teams are cheaper up front (FLA, COL, NAS, TOR, ATL, PHX, NYI) and it's fair to say that none of them are Stanley Cup favorites. Of course, that wouldn't be an issue if the Flames were flush with premier youngsters who were providing high value returns during their entry level deals, but that's not true of Calgary, unfortunately.

[NHL]

Conroy - 37

Primeau - 33

Langkow - 33

Iginla - 32

Jokinen - 30

Bourque - 27

Moss - 27

McGrattan - 27

Glencross - 26

Sjostrom - 26

Nystrom - 26

Prust - 25

Dawes - 24

Boyd - 23

[AHL]

Jaffray - 28

Lundmark - 28

Germyn - 27

Van Der Gulik - 26

Greentree - 25

R.Armstrong - 24

Cunning - 24

Chucko - 23

Sutter - 22

Watt - 22

J.Armstrong - 21

Backlund - 20

[Junior]

Marvin - 21

Severyn - 20

Nemisz - 19

Wahl - 19

Bouma - 19

Patterson - 19

Howse - 18

Bennett - 18

Bjorklund - 18

There's lots of names there and a ton of guys in that cherry age range of 24-29, but the truth of the matter is there's a steep drop-off from the Flames established offensive difference makers (Iginla, Langkow) and the players who will be expected to fill their shoes eventually (Backlund, Nemisz, Wahl). With a few minor exceptions, the vast majority of the guys entering or playing in their prime years are periphery support players or AHL fodder. The club will obviously be squeezing some good value out of Bourque, Glencross and Moss this coming season given their contracts and "peak" ages, but even these guys aren't your prototypical "top 6" forwards and are never going to replace the Jarome Iginla's of the world.

Dustin Boyd and Nigel Dawes bridge the gap somewhat between Iginla et al and Backlund et al, but precariously. I'm high on both guys, but there remains significant questions about whether they will fullfill expectations and become legit scorers at the NHL level. Their future ceilings, if all goes well, probably falls somewhere below Langkow...to say nothing of Jarome. 

The degree to which Iginla and Langkow degrade now that they're on the wrong side of 30 will go a long way to determining how grave this issue becomes marching forward. even if their slide into obsolesence is slow and gradual, the club will be facing very real forward depth concerns, starting as early as this season and growing more and more salient as the few big guns on the roster drift inexorably from their peak.

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