As he prepares to officially close the book on his illustrious NHL career this week, goalkeeper Curtis Joseph still regrets his decision to leave the Maple Leafs after the 2001-02 season.
Reached by phone yesterday, Joseph once again stressed that he should never have bolted Toronto, where he arguably was the city’s most popular sports figure.
Joseph chose to go to the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, admittedly a more talented team. But, at the same time, he understands why many Leafs fans considered him a turncoat.
Six years later, all hard feelings appeared to be gone when he returned to the Leafs for 2008-09, his final NHL season.
At the Air Canada Centre, he was cheered, not jeered. It was just like his first stint as a Leaf.
“I just want the Leafs fans to know how much I appreciated them welcoming me back to the city so warmly,” Joseph said. “I’ll never forget it.”
Tuesday, Joseph formally will announce his retirement. At the Air Canada Centre. As a Leaf. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
Is Joseph a Hall of Famer?
Let the debate begin.
His detractors will point out that he never won a Stanley Cup. The lack of a ring remains the biggest wart on his resume.
Conversely, there are those of us who feel his entire body of work should warrant serious consideration, especially when matched up against some who already have been enshrined.
One of those is Gump Worsley, who shares with Joseph the record for most career losses by a goaltender with 352.
When comparing numbers between the two goalies, Joseph had more wins (454-335); shutouts (51-43), and a better goals-against average (2.79-2.91). The one significant area Worsley was better? Stanley Cups (4-0).
Joseph is fourth on the career list in regular season wins, third in post-season shutouts (16), and 12th in playoff victories (63).
“He had an awesome career,” former Leafs teammate Doug Gilmour said yesterday. “He made teams better. A great leader and a great guy.”
Certainly food for thought for the Hall’s selection committee.
With agent Jay Grossman reportedly in Atlanta over the weekend, the Ilya Kovalchuk contract talks were expected to resume.
If discussions don’t go well, don’t be surprised if tires are kicked regarding potential trade possibilities. The Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins are among the teams said to be possibly interested.
NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell is talking tough when it comes to yahoos in the stands who attempt to blind goalies by aiming beams of laser lights at them.
Such was the case on Saturday at GM Place in Vancouver when one no-mind did exactly that, shining one at Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. At one point, the green beam clearly could be seen hitting the front of Kiprusoff’s white jersey.
“I would think, if caught, I would seriously think of pressing criminal charges if possible because I think a goalie could be injured when, while stopping a puck, he was interrupted somewhat by a laser light,” Campbell said in an e-mail to the Toronto Sun yesterday. “Not something I would want to see at all.
“We would have to deal with it severely.”
Flames coach Brent Sutter was bitter at building security.
“It’s ridiculous,” Sutter told reporters. “We could see it shining on his mask the whole night.
During a meeting with his players the other day, Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray pulled no punches.
The message: If the team continues to wobble, there will be changes.
The return of veteran sniper Teemu Selanne from a fractured hand over the weekend certainly was a welcome sight for Murray. However, Selanne and/or captain Scott Niedermayer could be dangled as trade bait if the Ducks are not in playoff contention as the March 3 trade deadline approaches.
THE WEEK AHEAD
New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur will be up against his arch-enemy, Sean Avery, tomorrow when the Devils meet the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Jumping jacks anyone? .... Having been mocked by the antics of Philadelphia’s Dan Carcillo last week, the Leafs have a chance to make amends when the Flyers come to the Air Canada Centre Thursday.