Credit Curtis Joseph's contract as the saving grace for the Detroit Red Wings today. It was his high salary that kept him in the Red Wings stable over the last six months, and as it turns out that's a stroke of luck.
The Red Wings announced today that Domenic Hasek is done for the season, his recurring groin injury apparently now at the point of no recovery for this season. The thirty nine year old Hasek signed with the Wings in the off season and returned to the NHL in September, eventually being named the Wings number one goaltender.
At the time, the Wings tried to trade Joseph but his current contract estimated at around 8 million dollars scared off any takers. Things became so crowded in the Red Wing dressing room, that the Wings ended up dispatching Cujo off to Grand Rapids, many expected him to sit there until the Wings decided to swallow most of his contract and trade him away.
But then the always enigmatic Hasek began to suffer his troubles of the groin, and as the days turned to weeks Cujo found himself back in the number one spot in Detroit. Last week, GM Ken Holland said that the job was now Cujo's to lose.
Having handled the entire mess with class, Cujo comes out of this smelling like a rose. He went where he was told, did his job well and quietly showed his team mates how a "team" player behaves. How the Wings managed to avoid disaster this year, will remain one of the great mysteries of sport.
Many thought it would have been perfect justice had Cujo been traded to a contending team elsewhere, coming back to win the Cup against the Wings. Instead, he has a very good chance to lead Detroit to the Stanley Cup Finals. It's hard to believe the Wings could be so lucky.