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Flames Prospect Depth - Blueline Strength

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Building off a Robert Cleave comment from the previous post, I noticed that the Calgary organization has a nice collection of futures at the back-end. While the forward ranks are still relatively thin, the Flames are positioned to be almost totally self-sustaining when it comes to staffing the blueline for years to come.

Here's how the depth chart looks by age:

[NHL]

Cory Sarich - 30

Robyn Regehr - 29

Staffan Kronwall - 26

Jay Bouwmeester - 25

Mark Giordano - 25

Adam Pardy - 25

Dion Phaneuf - 24

[AHL]

Brett Palin - 25

Matt Pelech - 22

Gord Baldwin - 22

John Negrin - 20

Keith Aulie - 20

Keith Seabrook - 20

[Junior]

TJ Brodie - 19

Tim Erixon - 18

At the NHL level, the club has no less than 4 guys who are on the brink of their prime years, which I consider approximately to be ages 24-29: Giordano, Bouwmeester, Pardy and Phaneuf (I exclude Kronwall here because I consider him little more than a single season stop-gap measure). Sarich and Regehr are the "grizzled" vets and both are likely a few steps away from the downslope.

At the minor and junior level, I count as many as 5 high-potential kids in Pelech, Aulie, Negrin, Brodie and Erixon, with guys like Seabrook and Palin as outside shots to eventually make the show at some point as depth players. Even if a couple of these guys fall away as they age, the Flames will still be relatively flush.

The fact that there is a gentle age slope from top-to-bottom is probably as important as the quality and quantity of the guys mentioned, though. As a result, the club can afford to allow the kids to grow into their roles slowly and organically; by the time a guy like Pelech is ready to make the leap for good, he'll be well supported by a collection of quality veterans playing at their peak or near peak. And by the time Pelech has grown into his big boy pants, the same can be said of Negrin and Aulie. And so on. It's as close to optimal as one could get - if you ignore the amount Calgary is spending on their defense corps currently, of course.

The only potential future issues I can see is crowding. The good news is: capable defenders can almost always be moved for a return on the trade market. My gut feeling looking at the list is: Sarich will stick around this season, but be dealt for parts next summer.