NATION PROFILE: CURTIS JOSEPH

Lowetide
April 12 2013 07:25AM

Curtis Joseph was an Edmonton Oiler for only 2 and a half seasons. Those seasons--half of 1995, all of 1996 and 1997--featured stellar goaltending performances and two of the finest playoff performances in the game's history. 

EARLY CAREER

In mid-June of 1989, Curtis Joseph was signed as a free agent by the St. Louis Blues. He was 21, late of Wisconsin (NCAA) and had a lot of interest from NHL teams (including one who used Joseph as a negotiation hammer). He was sent to the minors by the Blues, and made his NHL debut a few months before Edmonton would ride Billy Ranford to their 5th Stanley Cup (summer 1990).

From 1990 through 1995, Joseph was a quality starter for the Blues, leading the league in save percentage in 1993 and boasting a stunning post-season SP that year of .938 in playoff series against Chicago (a win) and Toronto (a 7-game loss). 

By 1994-95, Joseph ran up against Mike Keenan, a coach who pissed off more goalies over the years than Carter has pills. His contract ran out and Joseph decided he wasn't going to play for Keenan any longer. Keenan, sharp mind that he is, paired Joseph with Mike Grier and sent them both to Edmonton in exchange for 1st rd picks in 1996 and 1997 (which EDM acquired because St. Louis signed Shayne Corson).

It was an outstanding deal for Edmonton. 

A LEGEND IN HIS OWN TIME

Although Edmonton traded for Joseph in the summer (August 4, 1995) he did not sign with the club until January 11, 1996. From that day through the end of the 1997-98 season, CuJo dazzled and amazed, saving his best work for the post season. In fact, Joseph's 2 playoff runs (24 total games) represents the fourth highest total for playoff games in team history:

  1. Grant Fuhr 111
  2. Bill Ranford 41
  3. Andy Moog 37
  4. Curtis Joseph 24
  5. Tommy Salo 21
  6. Dwayne Roloson 18
  7. Jussi Markkanen 7
  8. Ron Low 3
  9. Ron Tugnutt 2
  10. Ty Conklin 1
  11. Bob Essensa 1
  12. Gary Edwards 1
  13. Pokey Reddick 1

Joseph improved the team's fortunes right away, but they were too far gone in year one for him to make a difference. However, his second and third seasons featured solid regular season play and some out of this world goaltending in the post-season.

A NEW OILERS GENERATION IS BORN!

You'll hear a lot of guys my age wax poetic about the Boys on the Bus, but the younger set punched their tickets as bona fide Oiler fans at about at about the 27 second mark of this video. As God is my witness I still don't know how he stopped it, and Ken Hitchcock still has nightmares about it and that's for sure. Later in overtime, Doug Weight sent Todd Marchant away and the speed demon skewered all of Texas with a shot to the heart.

There wasn't a man alive who questioned the hero of the series. Curtis Joseph. The save. It was, ultimately, the save of the season, decade, era. It still sends chills these years later.

1998

I've included the whole series because there's so many wonderful names and players (and big wingers!), but the Joseph save package in this video is once again stunning. Joseph's SP in 1998 was .928, a handsome total now and an impossible percentage 15 years ago.

CuJo was magic in copper and blue, every spring he was here.

THE TRADE THAT NEVER HAPPENED

Jonathan Willis wrote a terrific piece about a trade discussed during the spring of 1998 between Mike Milbury and Glen Sather. The Oilers didn't make the deal, and ultimately lost Joseph to Toronto via free agency July 15, 1998

LEGACY

One of the true "money" goalies of the 1990s, Curtis Joseph developed into an NHL star while guarding the net of the St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs. Although he was usually excellent in the regular season, "Cujo" became of the most feared playoffs foes due to his penchant for elevating his game in the NHL's second season. His cat-like reflexes and indomitable competitive spirit made Joseph one of the toughest goalies for shooters to face in recent years.

In 1996-97 and 1997-98, Joseph helped the young Oilers reach the playoffs where his brilliance guided the team into the second round both years. Joseph shocked the hockey world in July 1998 when he left the Oilers to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Although he never dominated the NHL's goaltending statistics, "Cujo" was looked upon as one of the league's top netminders whose play only improved during the post-season.

-HHOF 

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Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on Team 1260.
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#1 Leef O'Golin
April 12 2013, 08:13AM
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Marchant with one of the greatest goals in Oiler history there. Couldn't tell on the clip, but it seemed like only about a minute or two from when the save was made to the goal. I remember thinking "Oh geez...another Marchant breakaway". He had so many and failed on just about all of them. What wheels.

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#2 Lochenzo
April 12 2013, 10:07AM
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Nothing but fond memories of that team. The little engine that could on a $30 million budget against the NHL titans really pulled the heart strings.

Cujo won a couple of playoff series for us. In my mind, he also represented the unraveling of that team. Cujo left, Richardson left, eventually Billy Guerin and Dougie Weight were dealt because we couldn't afford them anymore. What could have been had all these guys stayed together for a few more years.

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#3 Will
April 12 2013, 10:29AM
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On an unrelated note, what do you think we can get in a trade for Gag.... nah just kidding.

My question is what has been the Oiler best game this year? For me the 4 nothing slaughtering of the Canucks and the 3 - 0 physical push back affair against the Blues. THat Blues game really stands out because the entire team played big and imposing against a usually big and opposing team.

Why can't we play like that every night?

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#4 Tayranchula
April 12 2013, 05:32PM
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The thing about those late 90's early 2000's Oilers team is the work ethic. They were not as skilled as this team is today but they out worked every team. Probably the hardest working team in the NHL during that time. Great goalie and work horses got us to the second round of the playoffs. This team.........I do not know wtf is wrong with them.

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#5 vetinari
April 12 2013, 08:12AM
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Cujo was the last of the 'money' goaltenders that I can remember. Rolosson and Salo had their moments, but Cujo won us games that we had no business winning.

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#6 Sal-Sational
April 12 2013, 08:51AM
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@vetinari

I beg to differ,Salo was a pretty solid goalie as well.. He gave us a chance to win every game...well until Mike comrie ruined his career..

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#7 106 and 106
April 12 2013, 09:11AM
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"You'll hear a lot of guys my age wax poetic about the Boys on the Bus, but the younger set punched their tickets as bona fide Oiler fans at about at about the 27 second mark of this video"

And what an introduction to Edmonton Oiler Playoffs - great goalie for a low market team struggling to keep contracts competitive.

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#8 dessert1111
April 12 2013, 09:18AM
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My first favourite player. I'm of the generation who became an Oilers fan because of Joseph, Grier, Marchant, Weight, and then Smyth and Niinimaa. Thanks for the article :)

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#9 The Real Scuba Steve
April 12 2013, 09:46AM
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Great times, no mater if we squeaked into the playoffs and lose in the 1st or 2nd round it was fun to watch. We went from dangerous underdogs To look to the future losers, sic of watching playoffs with no Oilers, now it's the Draft that is our playoffs. Management is just drafting waiting for something special to happen to save their &sses and I wouldn't be suprise if our owner doesn't want the team to peak until the new arena is built. Sad.

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#10 Manfly
April 12 2013, 10:28AM
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man, if we could only swing a deal now that would bring a goalie the calibre of Cujo AND a big, fast and tough winger like Mike Grier! for a guy his size, he had some serious wheels.

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#11 JBD
April 12 2013, 10:52AM
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I still have two posters of him from when I was a kid. I remember playing NHL 99 and being excited whenever I saw the crazy save from the colorado series. He was definitely one of the my favourite players as a kid.

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#12 TonyT
April 12 2013, 11:35AM
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The first team I fell in love with. Weight, Mironov, Ninnimmaa, Grier, Kovalenko, Cigar, Joseph. Haven't missed more than 5 games a year since those teams of my childhood...

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#13 Spydyr
April 12 2013, 12:29PM
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Cujo was a winner.This team needs some winners.

Reading the newspaper article.It spoke of trades with actual high end NHL players. Pronger for Shanahan both in their primes. Miss those days.Miss having a GM like Sather was back in the day too.He never stopped trying to make his team better.Mr.Dither on the other hand.....

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#14 Mr. Common sense
April 12 2013, 12:53PM
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What a badass that's for sure, well deserving of praise and respect. What I loved most about cujo was how humble he was, always full of admiration for teammates and a very generous guy who gave a lot back to the community, in addition, as most people don't know, how much he gave to orphans and the underprivileged, a true hero who should be remembered as such.

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#15 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
April 12 2013, 12:59PM
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If there was an Academy Awards for the game of hockey.

Curtis Joseph would certainly win the best performance by an Oilers goaltender ever, for that effort in the 97 robbery in Dallas.

1)Joseph 97 (vs Dallas)

2)Roloson in 06 (first 3 series)

3)Fuhr in 84 (vs Islanders)

4)Moog 82 (vs Canadians)

Never was a Ranford fan

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#16 Miller
April 12 2013, 01:12PM
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CUJO converted me to the passionate oiler fan i am today. Up until 97, I was a part time oiler, and Mighty Duck (thanks Disney) fan. Joseph raised the team to another level.

Only error in your article, LT, is that you failed to include a winky face for the point that he 'shocked the hockey world' and signed with TO. Everybody knew the Oilers didn't have the cash to lock him up :(

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#17 Darren
April 12 2013, 01:42PM
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Went to the Gordie Howe luncheon last year and Cujo was there. There was a hotstove type interview with Cujo, Georges Laraque, and Bryan Trottier. one of the questions asked of Joseph was how did he explain his better stats in the playoffs. He thought it was because there was no time to practice - he hated pratice and thought it was easier to stay sharp with constant games. Also mentioned that NBC didn't mess up the rythym of the playoffs back then.

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#18 Mr. Common sense
April 12 2013, 02:14PM
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Darren wrote:

Went to the Gordie Howe luncheon last year and Cujo was there. There was a hotstove type interview with Cujo, Georges Laraque, and Bryan Trottier. one of the questions asked of Joseph was how did he explain his better stats in the playoffs. He thought it was because there was no time to practice - he hated pratice and thought it was easier to stay sharp with constant games. Also mentioned that NBC didn't mess up the rythym of the playoffs back then.

Interesting, I was at the airport in Toronto once and there was a mob of people around Hasek, who was with his son, he looked hilarious, long, slender dorky looking guy with a baseball cap on backwards, I approached the mob and heard him say "practice made me lose my fire, better to play and play"

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#19 TDSM31
April 12 2013, 02:43PM
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That moment when Marchant scored in OT made me happier than the day that kid in my profile pic was born. Sorry son.

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#20 K_Mart
April 12 2013, 05:26PM
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Ron Lowe is still my favourite Oilers coach. At no point did I ever question what he was able to get out of his roster. Unbelievable.

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#21 Citizen David
April 12 2013, 05:43PM
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Since Goalies can raise a team ten levels and no one trades a star goalie, I propose the oilers should use every draft pick they have this year on Goalies. One of them has to pan out right? I know they won't be a factor for a handful of years but don't we want to ensure our team doesn't have to go back into a rebuild?

I'm sort of joking. But maybe not...

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#22 NewAgeSys
April 12 2013, 07:14PM
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Cujo was memorable.

That chapter of the team had a hotheaded streak that I really embraced .

I mostly remember the team politics happening when Cujo left here, he had no reservations with pulling the plug here whatsoever. I still admire how he handled leaving here, someone ought to find some of his interviews after the trade.

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#23 NewAgeSys
April 12 2013, 09:05PM
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Tayranchula wrote:

The thing about those late 90's early 2000's Oilers team is the work ethic. They were not as skilled as this team is today but they out worked every team. Probably the hardest working team in the NHL during that time. Great goalie and work horses got us to the second round of the playoffs. This team.........I do not know wtf is wrong with them.

Hardworking and NASTY, those were very nasty teams to play against ,large bodied and heavy and they left many a mark on opponents hides. Lotts of BadMedicine sprinkled liberally through that roster.

This team is coming together, they are learning, Halls is taking the initiative and defending his territory, he knows that if you cant do that first you can never become a winner, he is beginning to draw a line in the sand, now we need some big nasty young temmates to also start leaving marks on opponents even if it means hacking and slashing and cutting your way there.

This team is learning to become territorial and how to manage games properly and the coach is learning as he gos.

The only thing wrong is that we use an old outdated system that once was cutting edge and like the Caramilk Secret, but in the last few seasons it has become more popular and is known and used leaguewide and has no tactical peripheral value, it can win gmes but can in no way be considered superior to that of any other NHL team. Ralph struggled to grasp it himself and this was the real catalyst behind our season long struggles, in the last ten games Ralph has made strides, his party-line never looks in the mirror at the system it is always directed at some deflectory manner at the players or some intangible. As Ralph has begun to better understand the system he has begun to put together more consistant 60 minute games ,especially in the 1st period where we were not producing positive results.

The team will get better as they bend to Ralphs interpretation of the system managment demands he utilise. We heve had many coaches come through town for decades and always seen the same system utilised, it has evolved in the defensive direction and continues to do so, but it is the same animal. I hate the system we use and believe the Oilers should use Moma2s NewAge Hockey System.

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