Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Joseph's Future Clouded Has He Departed Blues' Locker Room for Final Time?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Joseph's Future Clouded Has He Departed Blues' Locker Room for Final Time?

Article excerpt

Curtis Joseph slung an equipment bag over his right shoulder and his goalie pads over his left shoulder. Then he grabbed a plastic bag with the rest of his gear and grimly walked out of the Blues' locker room Monday afternoon.

Perhaps for the last time.

The only thing Joseph left behind was the team picture, which was on his seat.

Joseph didn't look back as he left. He barely looked forward, staring at the floor as he struggled down the hallway with his gear. He declined a reporter's offer for help, but then defenseman Jeff Batters grabbed the plastic bag.

A hint of a smile crossed Joseph's face, but he was otherwise uncommunicative.

"There's really nothing to say," he said, quietly.

Joseph left Kiel Center on Monday, his future with the Blues uncertain. He's a free agent, without a contract and with a disappointing playoff performance behind him.

Most fingers of blame have pointed at him for the Blues' first-round elimination from the playoffs - a seven-game loss to the Vancouver Canucks in which "Cujo" had a 3.67 goals-against average and a .865 save percentage.

Still, Joseph has his defenders.

"You shouldn't point the poison pen at anybody," captain Brett Hull advised.

Hull is a good example of that theory, as Brendan Shanahan pointed out.

"People got on Brett at the end of last year, and now people are getting on Cujo," Shanahan said. "It's silly that we have to find a guy to blame.

"Brett got blamed last year, and he had a great year this year. Why do we have to talk like a guy is over and done with?"

Whether Joseph, 28, gets another chance in St. Louis remains to be seen. General manager and coach Mike Keenan said he would reserve judgment, for now, because he doesn't want to make an emotional decision.

"I haven't thought about it, in fairness to Curtis," he said. "Certainly, there's a business decision to be made from the contractual point of view. But I haven't spent any time on it."

Keenan told the players in a team meeting Monday that "Curtis took a lot of heat and he never played to his expectations," but he added, "Many of us didn't do our jobs to the level that we expected. It's a blameless situation."

But the goaltender bears the brunt of the responsibility because he's the team's last line of defense. And Joseph had a tough series.

Still, Keenan said that he recognized the cyclical nature of careers and that Joseph could rebound.

"I have no doubts in my mind at all that he will rebound," Keenan said. "He's not the type of person or the type of goalie that's going to be pleased about what happened. We all go in cycles, everyone goes in cycles.

"Sport is built on momentum. Maybe if we have the depth so that when Brendan goes down (with a broken leg), we'd have got by. Then, maybe the momentum builds for Curtis and the team. This is a team sport. There's not one individual that's responsible. …

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