Work in Sports
Time for Cujo to take next step
He has his moments, but still seeks THE moment
Posted: Thursday April 27, 2000 12:07 AM
By Terry Jones, SLAM! Sports
TORONTO -- He followed Grant Fuhr and Bill Ranford as the national netminder, the keeper of the Canadian cage. And while those two have now taken their leave of the game, Curtis Joseph carries on.
Maybe you've noticed.
For the fourth straight year, Cujo is the last Canadian franchise goalie left still standing in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"That's not a goal,'' laughs the goalie. "It's good just to make it to the second round again.''
Again. Again. Again. And again.
For back-to-back seasons Joseph performed major miracles for the Edmonton Oilers in first-round upsets against the Dallas Stars and the Colorado Avalanche.
Last year he manufactured a minor miracle against Philadelphia, although to Roger Neilson ("Had he been normal, we win in four'') it was major.
A BIT WOBBLY
This year was different. The Toronto Maple Leafs were favoured over the Ottawa Senators. And while Cujo was great in games 5 and 6 to do what he had to do while the Senators were committing series suicide, Joseph wobbled a bit in mid-series and even snapped and chased referee Mick McGeough in what turned into a slapstick scene worthy of Charlie Chaplin. In the end it was Steve Thomas, not Cujo for a change, who ended up with his name on the first-round series.
This year, for Joseph, it's the second round where he'll need to pull off his first-round upset.
I mean, is there any way in the world these Toronto Maple Leafs should be favoured against the New Jersey Devils?
Even if the Leafs were 3-0-1 against the Devils in the regular season?
Even if the NHL divisional playoff seeding system has given Toronto home-ice advantage for this series?
With Bryan Berard, Yanic Perreault and Nik Antropov out of the lineup for the Leafs and Toronto looking very much like a team that could have been had during the Ottawa series, it says here that this is the series that will have to have Cujo's name on it if the Leafs are going to go on.
But that's the business he's been in.
Need an upset? Call Cujo.
But he's 33 now. Sooner or later he has to expand the business.
Need a Cup? Call Cujo.
Curtis Joseph sees Grant Fuhr retire with four Stanley Cups, a couple of Canada Cups, 403 wins and a guaranteed spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
He sees Bill Ranford retire with two Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy, a Canada Cup and Canada's first World Championship since 1961 and maybe an outside shot at the Hockey Hall.
A handful of playoff upsets doesn't get you there. Being one of the most beloved goalies ever to play the game doesn't get you there. Cujo needs a Cup. Name one goalie in the Hockey Hall of Fame who didn't win one.
Sooner or later that has to become his storyline. But it's impossible to get him to speak to the subject other than to say, "I'll have some things to be proud of when I look back, but should we go on to win a Stanley Cup, they'll be minor things.''
You do get the idea that Joseph is going to go out more like Ranford than Fuhr.
"Billy went out on his terms. I like the idea that it was a decision not just about hockey but about family. Ranford retiring caught me a little more by surprise than Fuhr. Grant had so much surgery ...''
At the absolute peak of his career right now, Cujo has a regular-season record of 284-216-68. He's in pretty good position to put up some Fuhr-like numbers in terms of both games played and wins before he's done. He's already won more regular-season games than Ranford.
Having become almost a modern-day playoff legend, most people would probably find themselves somewhat surprised to know he's under .500 in the post-season. Win Game 1 Thursday and he'll be exactly .500.
The guy needs a Cup to cap his career. And if he carries this team to a crown here, this year, he'll be bigger here than Johnny Bower and Terry Sawchuk combined.
Come to think of it, it was Bower and Sawchuk, combined, the Maple Leafs needed in goal the last time Toronto won the Stanley Cup way back in 1967.
On with the show, Cujo's it.