goodroi - 7:45 pm on Nov 1, 2012 (gmt 0)
I get the feeling that some people still have the mindset when it comes to internal linking that they can "trick" Google. This used to be the case. Every year, heck even every month Google becomes smarter at spotting these tricks and better understanding real links vs. manipulated links.
I am not saying you can not manipulate Google but for most webmasters it is often more profitable and easier to work with Google. What does Google want? They want the links you care about to be embedded within relevant content, using anchor text that is appropriate to the content that will attracts real users to click. 80 sitewide category links in the sidebar is the exact opposite of this concept so I would rethink that plan.
As for figuring out which pages are on the same level, no two pages are on the same level. Each page has a unique value depending on how many external & internal pages are pointing to it and how relevant those pages are. Sitemaps are generally not needed and do not significantly boost most sites. Having all of your pages interlinked with relevant links from within the content will be a much better strategy IMHO.