I don't agree. It's been said by others, but if you just cycle bottom pairing D-men on your bottom pairing, you will be what we are - a bubble playoff team. If our third pairing had some second pairing potential / upside, it would move us closer to contender status. Nashville is the most obvious third pairing strength team, but teams like Chicago, LA, St Louis, etc all have much better D depth than us.
I completely agree with Cross about moving Russel to the third pairing. You can still get 18+ minutes a night from him on your third pairing (many teams do from their 5th D). Think of how strong that third pairing becomes with just that change. Think about the reduction in minutes it gives to the top 4 too, in theory improving their productivity by being less fatigued. It would also give the team more flexibility with injuries - eg: the Gio injury would not have been as big an issue if you bump Russel up to play with Brodie and keep the second pairing in tact.
Russel has had a great season, but if he's our 5th Dman instead of our 3rd/4th, we move that much closer to contender status. It's not a knock on him, it's just a reality of what it takes to be at the top.
Our D was very much roasted at the beginning of the year. Gio and Brodie were still not viewed the way they are now (remember, it only started to happen last year...many thought their performance last year was an outlier). They were seen as good, but certainly not one of the best pairings in the league. Pre-season, the Russel/Wideman second pairing was laughable. As the season went on, Russel and Wideman proved themselves and Gio/Brodie established themselves as one of the best top pairings in the league. That's when we started to get some attention.
Just by way of quick example, from NHL.com's preseason predictions http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=728988: "Though there are lots of intriguing young options up front, that is not the case on the blue line. Calgary signed Deryk Engelland to a three-year contract that was panned as one of the worst handed out in early July, but he's likely to be a regular for a team with six defensemen on a one-way contract." (in fact, Smid was projected second line in that article)
Or this one...http://thehockeywriters.com/calgary-flames-2014-15-preview-defensemen/:
"Well, Brodie and Giordano appear to be the real deal, and they are back! Heck, Mark Giordano – who wasn’t drafted and got brought into the Flames organization as minor league filler – got a lot of votes for the Norris Trophy last season. Brodie’s also rapidly improving.
Beyond that, the bottom six is likely to be filled out with Smid, Russell, Wideman and newcomer Deryk Engelland, who provides a nice physical edge if not much offense. The big question at camp is who takes the seventh spot: Wotherspoon (recovering from shoulder surgery), free agent signing Corey Potter (ditto), offensively-skilled try-out Raphael Diaz or big-bodied try-out Sheldon Brookbank. Regardless of which direction the team goes, opposition clubs will likely try to isolate Brodie and Giordano, the only possession threats on the team, as much as possible."