Curtis Joseph: Bolt Or Old Yeller?

Melissa HanschellCorrespondent IJanuary 1, 2009


By Melissa Hashemian


Last week I had my heart set on writing a piece about Dominic Moore and his efforts this season. However to my dismay, I found myself utterly focused on writing one about netminder Curtis Joseph instead.

After last night's performance I realized two things: One, Joseph has gone through a lot of emotional turmoil when it comes to his time with the Leafs. And two, this league has changed throughout the years and cannot accompany primitive styles of goaltending anymore.

Now I've adored Joseph from the moment he started playing for the Leafs in 1998, so this piece is not entitled to admonish him by any means, but to rather remind us about his accomplishments before letting him slip from our minds.

Curtis Joseph was signed as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs after the '97-'98 season and became an extremely popular asset to the Toronto organization and city. He was with the Leafs for four consecutive seasons, posting 30+ wins in three of them, while playing a significant role in the Leafs' quest to the finals in 1999 and 2002.

As a Maple Leaf, he registered 133 wins and 88 losses with 249 games played (1998-2002).

He was an inspiration, a role model, and a fighter. The city of Toronto loved him and all that he had to offer, but eventually all good things must come to an end, and that's exactly what happened at the end of the '01-'02 season.

Joseph was said to have wanted to play on a team that was capable of winning it all, and by winning it all he meant the Stanley Cup.  His comments however, implied that Toronto didn't possess this adequacy.

This created a huge buzz in Leafsland, as it left fans feeling betrayed and upset. Thus his player status in Toronto was disregarded and forgotten as he left for Detroit and the conquering Red Wings.

He didn't manage to stay long in Detroit though, as he contributed to two other teams (Phoenix, Calgary) before returning back to Toronto again for the '08-'09 season.

Since being acquired as a free agent on January 16, 2008, Joseph has only played a total of nine games (four starts), and from those nine has only won one, which happened to come Tuesday night against the Thrashers in a 4-3 win in overtime. It was his 450th NHL career win, as he stopped 29 of 32 stops for the Leafs.

So, I've cleared one out of two of my realizations thus far. As for the second, it's pretty self-explanatory.

Bluntly put, Curtis Joseph is old. I don't mean to announce that in a harsh or derogatory manner, but it's true.

The game of hockey is changing every day. So, it becomes more and more difficult for players over the age of 35 to play in accordance to the expectations put in nowadays.  Joseph, the Keswick, Ontario native is turning 42 next April, and not getting any younger unfortunately.

His goaltending tricks and techniques just don't cut it against young teams like Chicago or Edmonton. The game has become faster and the rules have generally changed a lot more. There is much more free will in front of the net now and defencemen can't clear the net as well as before.

Cujo struggles with the rebound control as it is. There is a lot of traffic in front of the net now, and many players are there to bang in the rebounds much easier than before.

Joseph is no longer a starting goalie and hasn't proven that he can sit on the bench and still play well when he hasn't had a chance to start consistently.  He provided a sufficient performance backing up Mikka Kirpusoff in Calgary last year, but mostly because he only played nine games and had one of the league's best defences in front of him.

Some goalies need to play a lot to remain focused and ready, and this was exactly the case for Joseph. He needs to play a lot more games than he actually has played in the past few seasons in order to be a more efficient and dependable goaltender. 

I say bring in Justin Pogge, and get Cujo packing. He's had a good run in the NHL for the past 10 years, it's time for a change. So why not start now Burke?

Apparently Joseph is getting the start for the game against the Buffalo Sabres tonight. I guess head coach Ron Wilson wants to see if he can contribute more to this team by putting him on the ice instead of on the bench.

Whatever the outcome is, Curtis Joseph must make a decision. The right decision is to retire and start a new career. Perhaps a Leafs goaltending coach?

Who knows, I just know it has to happen sooner rather than later. Time's up for this Old Yeller.

Stephen King's novel "Cujo" is about to have a run for its money when I come out with my debut novel titled "Old Dog Goes Home."

It's time to put Cujo down, he's an old dog.


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