Fresh start for Joseph

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

PHOENIX -- All through the lockout year, Curtis Joseph believed that when hockey returned, he'd be back with the Detroit Red Wings.

"I did," he said. "I thought things went well at the end of the year, and the playoffs went well. So I assumed I would go back. I guess I shouldn't assume."

If you believe good things happen to good people, perhaps Joseph got the better of the deal.

The Red Wings are a team in decline, whereas Joseph is now a part of the Phoenix Coyotes, a team in its formative stages but with unlimited potential.

The Detroit experience was not a happy one for Joseph.

He left the Maple Leafs for a three-year deal, played hurt for two seasons and missed the third because of the lockout.

Then, for reasons the Detroit players don't understand, Wings management opted to go for a goaltending tandem of Manny Legace and Chris Osgood rather than keep Joseph.

"I don't know why," Joseph said. "They have a lot of cap issues probably."

The Coyotes, with only Brian Boucher as a proven National Hockey League goalie, targeted Joseph. Other teams also were interested in acquiring him, but to clinch the deal Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky personally made the pitch.

He made it clear the team would bend over backward to resolve any family issues. Then he called again to explain how seriously the Coyotes felt about getting him.

As Joseph recalled, "He said, 'This is what we've got going and it's going to be good. This is why I'm coaching. That's my motivation. Would you like to be a part of it? We can't promise you the No. 1 or anything.'

"I was good with that. That was honest. As long as I could work it out with my family."

Work it out he did.

Joseph's 13-year-old daughter is starting Grade 9 in Phoenix. His two sons, 9 and 11, will be home tutored and flown to Toronto for key minor-hockey games.

In Toronto, they can stay at the family's suburban ranch.

That's not being sold.

"That's always home," Joseph said.

So far, Joseph looks sharp. He is in superb condition and his agility is back.

For the first time in years, he's healthy.

"My ankle is finally good," he said. "It's great after two years of not being good.

"After my first year in Detroit, my ankle wasn't right. It didn't show up on the x-rays, but a bone was hanging off the back, In August (2003) I got that bone removed, so instead of me competing for the No. 1 job -- which would have been nice -- with Dominik Hasek, it took until Christmas until it felt good."

Later in the season came a cracked tibia just above the ankle, and during the off-season he endured two more ankle operations.

"My first year, I didn't start off playing like a house on fire, that's for sure," Joseph said. "I wasn't very consistent, but I thought I got it going. And then (Anaheim Mighty Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien) Giguere was unbeatable.

"So we lost there."

In fact, it was a sweep.

The Wings scored only six goals in four games, but Joseph got the blame.

"It's the perception, right?" he said with a smile. "I know after the first three games I had a 1.75 GAA and a .925 save percentage. And I was a goat.

"I was going to be lynched."

The next year, the Wings were upset by the Calgary Flames, even though Joseph played quite well.

So changes were made.

"There are no hard feelings from me," Joseph said. "Maybe they feel it was a nightmare. I don't know. But I was all prepared to go back. I feel that I proved something. I didn't win a Cup there, but I was ready to go back."

Now he's in Phoenix where the expectations aren't as high as they are in Hockeytown, but he is philosophical about it.

"You know what? You have to look at the overall league. What are the chances for anybody? I thought going into Detroit I had the chance to win two Cups. Maybe three Cups.

"It didn't work out that way."


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