Curtis Joseph Showing Signs of Age

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Curtis Joseph Showing Signs of Age

Ah, Curtis Joseph. A name that once stood beside Toronto greats Vince Carter, Joe Carter (no relation), and, of course, Mats Sundin.

However, that time has come and gone. Things have changed, and so has the play of our once-worshipped net minder.

Any true Leafs fan can recall the days when Cujo would come to the rink and perform his nightly magic show in front of a sellout crowd at the ACC. Although nostalgic memories make great bed time stories, the fact remains, Joseph is past his respectable playing days.

Granted, the Leafs merely needed someone to play 15-20 games to give Vesa Toskala a breather, but is Joseph good enough to fill that role?

In four games this season, Joseph has posted a 3.91 GAA with a save percentage of .862. The worst part about those stats is that in those games he was never really hung out to dry; he's been letting in softies.

In Sunday afternoon's game against Carolina, for instance, the Leafs dominated most of the first before a few questionable goals evened things up. Joseph was consistently slow to return to his feet after going into the butterfly, which resulted in a few goals tucked away in the top shelf.

You can make the argument that Joseph stood on his head for both the Flames and Canada (Spengler Cup) last season and that he earned his right to play another year, but those numbers just haven't translated so far.

Even in the preseason, Joseph played poorly and once had to be pulled in favor of young Justin Pogge, who went on to stop 13 of 14 in that game.

Now before you get upset and leave a comment blasting me for this article, realize that I love Cujo. He was a hero of mine and what he did for the Leafs in the playoffs—beating the Sens practically on his own, carrying his team to two Conference finals—will never be forgotten. However, as much as my love runs deep for Joseph, it runs deeper for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Leafs are not a team that will score in bunches (despite Saturday's comeback against the Rangers). This is a squad that will sometimes rely on their goalie making a game-saving stop to keep them alive.

For example, in the Leafs 5-2 win against the Rangers, Toskala made a couple of big saves to keep the Rangers from going up 3-0. If one of those shots finds the net, I don't see the Leafs rallying back to earn two points; two points that could be crucial for a team poised to compete for a playoff spot.

So, what does the future have in store for the Keswick, Ontario native? Barring injury to Toskala, Cujo will see between 10-20 more starts and that, I believe, is the last we will ever see from Curtis Joseph in the NHL.

The Leafs hold the benefit of having a capable starter in Toskala with a possible All-Star calibre prospect waiting in the wings. Toskala will play one more season ('09-'10) at most before he's dealt, and then the Justin Pogge era begins.

As the Leafs continue to add pieces to the puzzle, it is a sad fact that Cujo will be expendable at the end of the year. Who knows, maybe the aging tender will be offered a front office position like that of former Leafs Joe Nieuwendyk and Doug Gilmour.

One thing is for sure, come next October there will be a different body sitting at the end of the bench on a foldable chair.

Enjoy the final games of Cujo, Leafs fans. He is loved, and will be missed.

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