The question of "what can the Toronto Maple Leafs do to win" has been asked every year since 1967. Being a Leaf fan is most definitely one of the hardest things to do, as the team never seems to find success, yet we always will come back and cheer. Simply put, the Leafs don't need to be good in order to fill the stands or make any money, as theres multi-year long waiting lists for seasons tickets while other teams seem to have an abundance of them (I'm looking at you sunbelt teams). The question on how to make the Leafs better isn't an easy one to answer, but here are just a few ideas
1) Fire Carlyle
Everyone who follows the Leafs know that head coach Randy Carlyle's days are numbered behind the bench. His tactics seem to drive Leaf Nation crazy, but the Leafs won't fire him until they are for certain that they have a great replacement. Carlyle in my opinion is a decent coach, but his decisions are always questionable. First off, he always states that there is always no No. 1 goalie on the team, when Jonathan Bernier is clearly the far superior goalie. Splitting time with Reimer does not help the Leafs in the long run as Reimer seems to constantly make mistakes in the net. What good is having a superior goalie if Reimer is going to take 30-40 starts away from him? Any other coach would see this and play their true No. 1 goalie, because that is what every NHL powerhouse team does, and the Leafs should emulate them.
Secondly, when Shanahan was hired last year, the first thing he set out to do was grab players so Carlyle can have a 4 line team. What does Randy do? He doesn't play his fourth line and over uses his other players. If you look at the NHL powerhouses such as Anaheim, L.A. , or Chicago, the one thing they have in common is they roll 4 lines constantly. The Leafs fourth line is decent enough to play 10 minutes a night, but when they are only getting 3 to 5 it makes the coach look stupid.
2) Trade jake Gardiner
I'm going to be making a lot of people angry about this, but I truly believe Gardiner should not be on our defence. He shows flashes of brilliance, but 99% of the time he is giving the puck away. I personally don't like to say he plays defence, I like to label his position as "E" for everywhere, because he is all over the ice and skates everywhere. Someone should tell him where a defenseman should play, it might help.
The Leafs signed him long term in the summer, which could be an attraction for other teams because they could retain his rights for many years. At the moment his stock is still relatively high, and now is the opportunity to trade him before he keeps making himself look bad.
It would be fine for the Leafs to trade him because we already have 3 more offensive defensemen on the team in Phaneuf, Franson, and Rielly.
3) Sign Cody Franson long term
Simply put, Cody Franson is a bad@ss. He will crush anyone who has the puck, no matter if they play on the 4th line or is one of the leagues superstars. Just check out his hit on Sidney Crosby from last year by clicking here. He plays big minutes for the Leafs, contributes offensively, plays 1st line powerplay, is a big physical presence (top 15 this season in hits by defensemen), and has an absolute cannon of a shot. All these qualities are rare in a player, and one of the bonus' to Franson's physical play is that he doesn't take many penalties, meaning he knows how to perfectly take the body. His contract ends at the end of this season and he will be a UFA and could command $5 million a season. The leafs should give him exactly that, because if he's gone next season it will prove to be extremely unfortunate.
4) Get rid of the suits in the stands
Where are all the true Leaf Fans?
The Air Canada Centre is one of the quietest rinks in hockey, and that is because of the number of suits in the stands. The vast majority of seasons tickets are sold to corporations, and they send their "suits" to the games (their employees and clients). They are there to make business deals, which mostly occur at intermission. You can notice the empty lower bowl at the beginning of a period because these suits are too busy working to watch the Leaf game. Joffrey Lupul has even been quoted saying how lame the atmosphere is in the rink. If the Leafs want a rocking building, just look at the upper bowl which is full of people in blue cheering the whole game. Sell the tickets to these kind of fans, not the corporations. It's amazing what a crowd can do to a team, and if the Leafs were constantly being given motivation from the fans, theres no telling what they can accomplish. Just look at the Montreal Canadiens, their "suits" are put in the box seats, so their dull atmosphere doesn't affect the team. The Bell Centre in Montreal or MTS Centre in Winnipeg are two of the toughest rinks to play in, and the reason is the fans are constantly cheering. The Leafs need to see this and do the same, because if you do believe me just watch videos of the Leafs in the playoffs in 2013, where the sea of blue was noticeable.
Just my opinions though. Thanks for reading, feel free to comment!