Leafs Trudge On, Cujo Plight Continues
By John McCauley
December 6, 2003
TORONTO -- It doesn't seem to matter who is in the Leafs lineup these days, everything is falling into place.
Gary Roberts returned to the lineup Saturday and picked up right where he left off with Mats Sundin as the duo registered a goal and a helper each. Roberts missed the last two games with a hip flexor problem, but wasn't bothered by it at all in a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings Saturday, the team's eighth straight.
The return of the power forward wasn't as positive for Harold Druken, who was sent to St. John's. Druken had four points in seven games since being called up. He was drawing rave reviews for his work with Owen Nolan and Matt Stajan, but is caught in a numbers game.
In order to send either Alexei Ponikarovsky or Nathan Perrott to St. John's they would have to clear waivers. That would almost certainly spell the end to their time with the organization so it is Druken and his two-way contract that was re-assigned.
With Druken gone, Joe Nieuwendyk played centre for Nolan and Stajan, who was moved to the left side. The trio was productive scoring the game's final goal.
|Mats Sundin has been a force during the streak.
(Graig Abel Photography)
This game had many sub plots, but one of the more interesting being the Red Wings goaltender situation.
After clearing waivers this week, Curtis Joseph has been sent to Grand Rapids, Detroit's AHL affiliate, and in a sharp twist of fate would have started Saturday night against Mikael Tellqvist and the baby buds, but it didn't happen.
Grand Rapids handed St. John's a 3-1 defeat, even with Cujo on the bench.
Joseph played four seasons in Hogtown and captured the imagination of Leafs Nation with his acrobatic style and ability to make the big save. He backstopped the squad to two Eastern Conference Finals, but couldn't get the club past that point.
When his relationship with head coach Pat Quinn turned soured after the 2002 Olympics, it was only a matter of time before Cujo packed his bags. He was mad at Quinn for not putting him back in goal after the 5-2 thrashing at the hands of Mats Sundin and the Swedes.
It has been widely reported that Joseph turned down more money in Toronto to try and win a Stanley Cup in Detroit. That was his right and he's had to live with the decision.
One first round playoff exit later, Dominik Hasek decided he wanted to come back and give the NHL another shot. Rather than let him become an unrestricted free agent and go to say Colorado, Wings brass picked the Dominator to take them back to the Promised Land.
The problem has been finding a home for Joseph, who has a no-trade clause and an $8 million salary. Not too many teams (read none) are going to take on a 38 year-old goalie that has a 2-3-0 record, 3.13 GAA and a .885 save percentage.
Detroit will pick up most of his salary when and if a deal is done. It appears more likely that a buyout is negotiated and Cujo earns the right sign anywhere for a lot less money armed with a bank account full of Detroit's quid.
It's not a great situation to be in, but sometimes you have to sleep in the dog bed you made yourself.