On this day in history, the St. Louis Blues let go of one of their most popular goaltenders ever. It may have been the right decision for a handful of years, but it still stung in the moment.
When the St. Louis Blues announced they had traded Curtis Joseph, it sent shockwaves through the stratosphere. Coming on the heels of a trade that sent Brendan Shanahan to the Harford Whalers, fans were left to wonder just what in the blue hell was happening, to steal a phrase.
In a matter of weeks the team had lost what many felt was their cornerstone goaltender and a top 20 scorer in the league. It made no sense in the moment.
Joseph did have a poor performance in the playoffs in the season prior. However, during the regular season he had set a then career best goals against average of 2.79.
Additionally, prior to his final season, Joseph had faced over 2000 shots per season in two straight years. An argument could be made that, despite his youth, he was simply worn down by the time the playoffs rolled around.
Looking back, the thing that was the most disappointing was the age. Many goaltenders don’t hit their prime until their late 20’s or early 30’s. The Blues let go of the man affectionately as Cujo at 27.
He was just entering the prime of his career and the Blues were never going to get to see it, except when he came to town and shut us down, which he made a habit of when playing his former team.
Ultimately, Cujo’s career came down to playoff failures. He never ended up winning a Stanley Cup, even though he spent a couple years with a rather loaded Detroit Red Wings team. He had some sparkling regular season performances with teams that weren’t great like Edmonton and Toronto, but just couldn’t get that to translate into postseason success overall.
Even with how things played out in his future, fans were left to wonder what happened with his Blues future in that moment. Perhaps we should have seen it coming. Grant Fuhr had been signed only a couple weeks prior.
Yet, those of us that were not completely initiated into the cold realities of sports thought that Fuhr had been brought in as a backup.
Fuhr hadn’t played a full season in three seasons prior to joining the Blues. He had also skipped around between four teams in five seasons. It seemed as though his career was on the tail end while Joseph should have still been going up.
Surely Fuhr was being brought in as a mentor to help Joseph get over his playoff disappointments. It was not to be so.
Whether it was a good move or not, depends on your point of view. Fuhr had an unbelievable season the very next year. If not for an injury, he may have helped the Blues to at least a Western Conference Finals appearance or more. Or, maybe Joseph would have flourished under a squad that featured Chris Pronger in his prime and Al MacInnis.
It’s an unanswerable quandary. All that is for sure was the shock from when it happened.
Even as teenager, I remember questioning the logic of management for the first time. Mike Keenan would give us plenty of reason to do that during his regime, but perhaps none more than the offseason of 1995.
What turns this argument on its head was the most shocking deals actually weren’t the worst. Sure it was a punch to the gut to lose Shanahan and Joseph, especially in such close proximity.
— STL Blues History (@STLBlueshistory) August 4, 2016
Still, the Blues got a Hall of Fame player in Pronger. For Joseph, they got Shayne Corson, who was named team captain and had a decent year but was later traded for Pierre Turgeon and Craig Conroy. The Blues also got some great play in the late days of Fuhr’s run.
Call him a choker if you wish. Point out his failings. It’s fair game when looking at the entire breadth of his career. However, fans of Cujo will always wonder what might have been if he had stayed past this deal.
It’s all part of the business these days. Back then, this was quite a shocking deal.