Five years ago, John Ferguson Jr. so wanted to make the playoffs after the lockout that he mortgaged the future to do it. As we all know, he was unsuccessful. When Brian Burke finally rescued us from the foolishness of Ferguson, he inherited a team with hardly any top prospects.
Since Burke took over the team, he has drafted well, and the Leafs now have as bright of a future as we've had in years. You can knock Burke for trading three draft picks for Phil Kessel all you want, but Burke has more than made up for it, acquiring two former first-rounders, two first-rounders and a third-rounder in this year's draft.
Burke has added two cornerstones in Kessel and Dion Phaneuf that will be in the Leafs' line-up for years to come. While not a Burke draft pick, Luke Schenn has developed into a leader on the Leafs defense. Almost an afterthought in the Phaneuf trade, Keith Aulie has made great strides, and could form a great shutdown unit with either Schenn or Phaneuf.
When it comes to forwards, Burke has drafted several who should prove useful to us down the road. Players like Nazem Kadri, Joe Colborne, Jerry D'Amigo, and Greg McKegg should present a future forward corps that could make the Leafs constant playoff contenders for the first time since before the lockout.
Without taking into effect free agent signings and trades that could happen within the next five years, the Leafs' line-up could look something like this in the 2015-16 season.
First Line—LW: Nazem Kadri C: Joe Colborne RW: Phil Kessel
With the acquisition of Colborne and a few other centers in the pipeline, It would be best for Kadri to move to the wing. He showed earlier this season that he can play the wing, so it should be no problem.
Second Line—LW: Nikolai Kulemin C: Greg McKegg RW: Jerry D'Amigo
In five years time, Kulemin will have developed into a leader on this team, and will help the development of two offensively minded players.
Third Line—LW: Brad Ross C: Tyler Bozak RW: Kenny Ryan
The energy line of this Leaf team. Ross could eventually move up to the second line if Kulemin were to leave.
Fourth Line—LW: Jay Rosehill C: Marcel Mueller RW: Colby Armstrong
Rosehill takes over the full-time enforcer role from Colton Orr and Mike Brown. Armstrong sticks around to be a leader in the locker room.
First Defense Pairing—Dion Phaneuf & Jesse Blacker
Phaneuf stays on as the captain of the Leafs while Blacker should develop into Tomas Kaberle's long term replacement.
Second Defense Pairing—Luke Schenn & Keith Aulie
If things go according to plan, other teams would hate to play against these two.
Third Defense Pairing—Carl Gunnarsson & Jake Gardiner
Would most likely be the most offensively gifted pairing on the Leafs.
Goaltenders—James Reimer & Jussi Rynnas
Reimer will be the starter and Rynnas will be the backup if Jonas Gustavsson does not live up to his potential.
While I know this won't be the exact roster the Leafs have in 2015-16, I don't think anyone would have a problem if this were to be the line-up. Taking into account their age now, in five years, the average age of this Leafs will be 25.5.
So what do you guys think? Would you think this is a capable playoff team? Would you hang on to players like Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski, and Joffrey Lupul?