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.
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:
- Grant Fuhr 111
- Bill Ranford 41
- Andy Moog 37
- Curtis Joseph 24
- Tommy Salo 21
- Dwayne Roloson 18
- Jussi Markkanen 7
- Ron Low 3
- Ron Tugnutt 2
- Ty Conklin 1
- Bob Essensa 1
- Gary Edwards 1
- 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.
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
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.