At that time, they were still just "taking the fat kid" or "the guy that can't skate" and sticking him in net (Connell) at the National Hockey League level essentially.
In LeSueur's case, he actually played RW first before moving to goal. Thus the praise for his skating and stickhandling.
Not sure if that really changes your overall point, but it's an interesting advantage for him over some contemporaries.
That's over-simplified and definitely doesn't apply to everyone in the era, but the feeling I get is that the position really evolved precipitously after that.
I don't entirely disagree. Here's how I see it -- and mind you, these thoughts are a work in progress.
Nothing I've seen suggests to me that goaltenders were major game-changers prior to around 1910. I truly think the evidence points to a game where normal save percentages were not likely much over about 60-70%, so shot counts were likely more important than goaltending in deciding most games. And other than the occasional guy who played a long time for a good team, goalies didn't seem to build much of a legacy within the culture of the sport. There's really not a goalie equivalent to a Dan Bain, Hobey Baker, Harvey Pulford, Hod Stuart. I believe this was the case simply because the position was too damned hard to play as essentially a 7th skater with standard equipment and a mandate to stay near the net. Early goalies were somewhat set up to fail by the parameters of what the position entailed, and the resources they were allowed to use.
Around 1910 or so, we start to see a tide change in how goaltending balances out with other positions. This was the beginning of the "precipitous" change you identified. First it's Moran and LeSueur, who hinted at the possibility that a team could be built around its goalie; then suddenly a wave of stars in Vezina, Benedict, Lehman, Holmes, Hern, Hutton... the list grows quickly, disproportionately to the deepening of overall talent. The suddenness of the increase mirrors the advent of the trapper, the blocker, the modern goal stick, and the replacement of cricket-style pads with modern pillows. Goalies stood a fighting chance to actually change a game, and some of the recorded save percentages from the 1920s are ludicrously high. Of course it was still a long way from Luongo, but it's easy to look at a guy like Benedict and see comparable athletic qualities and judge him on that basis.
Soooo... where does LeSueur figure in? We know that the game was quite different when he played -- in his early career he was standing in the driving wind between two flagpoles. But he was also the leading edge of modern goaltending, the first bona fide star of the position. Not reliant on a good defense, not simply racking up team stats or awards, but a standalone star in his own right. The precipitous change traces right back to him.
So yeah, he's a darn tough cookie to judge. One foot in the irrelevant-goalie era, one foot in the era of Vezina. In my judgment he's leaning forward, ahead of his time, into that latter generation -- so while I don't put him on the level of a Vezina or Benedict, I give him probably about 70% of that amount of credit.
I don't disagree with you really, TDMM...as you probably can detect, I'm very visual. I've at least seen glimpses of how it was done back to the '50's...you get a pretty good feel from detailed game reports post-forward pass to WWII that it wasn't all that much different.
Before that though, going back into the 20's and back, I wonder just how much the position evolved. At that time, they were still just "taking the fat kid" or "the guy that can't skate" and sticking him in net (Connell) at the National Hockey League level essentially. .
Was the bolded quote really about Connell?
I've seen his vitals, and, well, I'd really like to still be 150 pounds at 5'9!!!!
Curtis Joseph led the league in save percentage in 1992-93 and led the playoffs in save percentage in 1993 and 2004. He also finished 2nd in league save percentage in 1991-92 against the best season of our #1 goaltender. And that "4th team all-star" year saw him receive more 1st place Vezina votes than our #2 goaltender in arguably his best season. So what are you talking about exactly when you say that Joseph never led the league in anything?
Couldn't be labeled the top goaltender in any year? It would probably be quicker to ask which of us DON'T think Curtis Joseph was the best goaltender in 1992-93.
Exactly the problem with the awards or bust approach.