As we embark on our annual TLN Top 20 Prospects series, it’s important to remember and recognize the special players that paved the way for tomorrow’s stars. Over the next few weeks, we will be announcing our first ever TLN All-Time Greatest Leafs Team, announcing a new player every day until we’ve filled out our 23-man roster.
The second of our three goalies on this All-Time team should stir up a little argument.
Curtis Joseph didn’t play with the Leafs as long as some other netminders we could have included on this list, and along with Sundin is the only other entry we’ve had so far who played most of their career post-1990. But his contributions to the team are actually quite staggering when we look back at the Quinn era, the last time the city saw anything resembling a contender.
Joseph’s save-percentage tailed off in that last regular season (I’m excluding his second stint for now), but that spring he’d bring the team on its longest playoff run of his tenure, when the Leafs played 20 playoff games on the way to being eliminated in conference final.
If we look at how he stacked up against the league in those four years in Toronto, the middle two seasons really stand out as impressive. Those were also his two best playoff runs with the Leafs in terms of individual performance as well, where he posted a .932 and .927 in the 2000 and 2001 postseasons, respectively.
Overall, in four playoff runs with the Leafs, Joseph posted a .919 save-percentage. But perhaps the most impressive part of his time with the team is they never played in any less than 11 postseason games in any year he was in Toronto.
This first one isn’t a Joseph moment really, it’s a Cory Cross moment. But those overtime playoff games with the Sens in the early 2000s are peak Joseph memories for me, and he makes a nice save on Alfredsson here before we get to see the Sens’ captain dumped in front of the net.
All in all, great fun.
Joseph’s departure from the team in 2002 is also notable, as it created a stir in Toronto. His move to the Red Wings made sense for a number of reasons, most notably a longer term contract and a chance to win a Cup. But there was speculation that he and Quinn were on rough terms since the Salt Lake City Olympics, where Brodeur had ousted him for the starter’s gig. Either way, for this kid in high school thinking the Leafs were contenders, it was pretty gutting.
We should also note that Joseph eventually returned for a quick stint as a backup with the Leafs before retiring. A Fletcher move, of course.
- 5th all time in games played by a Leafs goaltender (270)
- 4th all time in wins for a Leafs goaltender (138)
Like we mentioned in the Sundin profile last week, the early-2000s Quinn years are really the last time a lot of fans even enjoyed the Toronto Maple Leafs. Joseph was obviously a big part of their success there, and given his departure pissed off the fanbase so much, it’s safe to say he was well-liked and (accurately) seen as heavily relied-upon in those years.