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  1. Part 4 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Perhaps I surprised some of you with this one? Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #27: Calgary Flames Top Fws: Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay, Mike Cammalleri Top Ds: Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano Top G: Miikka Kiprusoff Top 3 Under-23s: 1. F Mikael Backlund (23) 2. D TJ Brodie (22) 3. F Roman Horak (21) Top 5 Prospects 1. F Sven Baertschi (19) 2. G Leland Irving (24) 3. F Maxwell Reinhart (20) 4. F John Gaudreau (19) 5. F Markus Granlund (19) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: C Bluechip Talent: C Diversity: D Overall: C Organizational Strengths: The Flames have an abundance of scoring wingers, seemingly too much. As far as on paper, the Flames look like a team that has a lot of potential offensive threats and with 4 well-balanced lines, Calgary looks like it'll be able to get contributions from up and down the lineup on any given night. Kiprusoff remains one of the league's top goalies, and the defense is mobile and has some depth at the NHL level. Organizational Weaknesses: The Flames have the oldest core group of players in the league; Iginla and Kiprusoff remain the linchpins on offense and defense, but both are north of 35. The defense currently lacks grit and snarl beyond Cory Sarich and occasionally Mark Giordano. The biggest weakness up front is at center; no other team has as unproven a group of centermen as the Flames. Prospect Strengths: The Flames under Feaster have done a complete 180 to the Sutter era. With an emphasis on speed and skill among forwards being placed, the Flames have benefited from that change in philosophy by building a group of forward prospects that possesses both skill and grit. The defensive group has an intriguing group of darkhorse-style prospects and there is depth at the goaltending position. Prospect Weaknesses: While there is depth in general throughout the organization's prospects, the RW side in particular is abysmally thin behind Greg Nemisz. At defense, the lack of a bluechip puckmoving defender remains the biggest issue in the pool. A lot of the forward prospects are boom-or-bust selections, and some of the more-skilled players are a few years away from contributing at the NHL level. Outlook: There has been a changing of the guard in Cowtown. While the two faces of the franchise remain constant, the Flames have quietly been phasing in younger players onto their main roster. The Flames have gone out of their way to find potentially rewarding talents (such as Roman Cervenka) and names like Sven Baertschi and John Gaudreau have given hope to a franchise that has long lacked a young homegrown talent. That being said, there is still a lot of work to be done before the Flames can legitimately be considered a rising team. There are a lot of question marks surrounding every single one of the Flames roster, including the two superstars. And the Flames still need more talent coming up through their ranks. While the drafting has improved, it will still be a while before any of their gambles will take fruit. If everything should pan out, the team could be a major playoff contender in the West. It is more likely however that the Flames will be among the group of teams fighting for the last 4 playoff positions.
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