Chris Osgood retired. Who cares?


You’re going to hear a lot of talk in the coming week about Chris Osgood. A lot of that talk is going to include the word "great."

And all of it is going to be 100 percent incorrect.

Great is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days and it often is misapplied to players who are anything but. This is certainly the case with Osgood, who is just about as sub-mediocre as any goalie in NHL history who ever carved out a 17-year career.

There are people – like Ken Holland, for example – who believe Chris Osgood is a Hall of Fame goaltender because he has unparalleled numbers: 400-plus wins (where "plus" means "one") and three Stanley Cups. All of which means approximately nothing in the grand scheme of things. Know who else is a three-time Stanley Cup winner? John Madden. Aaron Ward. Kris Draper. Darren f’n McCarty (actually the latter two won four now that I think of it).

The only way any of those guys get into the Hockey Hall of Fame is by plunking down the $10 like any other person would. But Osgood is different, and it’s nearly impossible to figure out why.

After all, this is a guy who lost the starting job for his teams more than a few times in his career, most notably to all-time legends like Manny Legace and Garth Snow. He’s a guy whose era-adjusted career save percentage was something like .895 a few years ago and has likely only gotten worse as his skills have continued to do the same.

And look I’m not saying a 35-year-old goalie with a history of injury problems isn’t allowed to decline more quickly than others in his field, but I am saying a commemorative plaque bearing his likeness he shouldn’t be allowed to be within three miles of the HHOF.

There is a lot of fallacy in the notion that Chris Osgood earned many of those 401 wins himself. Not that this is the greatest all-time measure of how good a goaltender is, but know how many 30-plus save shutouts Chris Osgood posted in his career with the Red Wings? Two. None since 2000 (Legace had three between 2001 and 2004). And how much do you want to bet that a healthy majority of those shots was of poor quality? Put it this way, one of the two teams he did it against was the 1998-99 Calgary Flames.

"He just wins," is about the dumbest thing you can say about a goalie who played on the pre-salary cap Detroit Red Wings, during the Dead Puck Era, and posted numbers that look a lot like Jussi Markkanen’s. The team would have won those Stanley Cups with almost any goalie in the league and probably a healthy percentage of the Shooter Tutors produced between 1993 and today. To be fair, it was probably really hard for him to face a lot of shots when Yzerman and Fedorov and Shanahan and Lidstrom and Larionov were all the way at the other end of the ice making it really hard for other teams to get the puck, let alone put it on net. Maybe he allowed a lot of those goals because he fell asleep.

That we’re having this debate at all shows how good the Red Wings have been for the last 15 or 16 years more than anything else. The success Osgood has had says very little about him, and everything about the franchise’s ability to buy and retain winning talent.

We really need to be careful, though, to make the distinction that "winning talent" is not something anyone should have ever said Chris Osgood possessed.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    As a baseball fan who has to deal with people saying ‘But so-and-so has so many WINS!!!!!!!’ everyday, this is music to my tired, dreary ears.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Ken Holland proved that a highly skilled team of forwards and defenceman, along with excellent coaching, can win it all with mediocre (with regards to NHL skill levels) goaltending.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    no hall of famer, however he did have a decent career. in real estate its location location location. guess ossie applied that principle to his nhl career.

  • Scott

    I agree that he is not a hall of famer for sure, but he was a good goalie on a great team. He may not have won many games, and he did his fair share of losing them games. Always was a great playoff performer though, don’t know if that should be enough to get him in.

    • Subversive

      Career Sv % .905
      Career Playoff Sv % .916

      Hardly earth shatteringly better in the playoffs.

      For comparison’s sake, Tomas Vokoun, who no one is suggesting might get into the hall of fame anytime soon has the following numbers:

      Career Sv % .917
      Career Playoff Sv % .922 (granted small sample size)

      So, which goalie did more to give their team a chance to win? Osgood is a recipient of the incredible good fortune to end up on one of the greatest dynasties of all time along with being just good enough to keep his job and not cost too much.

      • Scott

        Well there is improvement come playoffs, but your right its not exactly, “great” playoff numbers. But he obviously improved his game, and its probably a case of, “saw him good” come playoff time.

        I definately don’t disagree with you, I still think he should not be a HHOF guy. But his improved playoff play and his ability to not hurt his team in the playoffs, means at least he gets a few pats on the back for a good career.

  • spenner

    I have to disagree. Osgood may have not been a “great” goalie but he definitely was a very solid and reliable goalie. Especially in the playoffs, which should not be over looked.

    How many “great” goalies (Luongo), on “great” teams (Vancouver) still can’t get it done. No matter which way you spin it, he won 400 games and won 3 Stanley Cups. He may not be a 1st,2nd or even 3rd ballot hall of famer. But I think down the road he will/should get into the hall of fame.

  • spenner

    sorry, like most canucks fans, the writer of this blog is wrong. If 403 wins and 3 stanley cup doesnt classify you as a hall of famer, what does? Who wrote this blog, who cares? This typse of blog is not going to help you further your journalistic career my friend think better next time.

  • Scott

    Outside of the wins and cups, the only think I can think of that would get Osgood into the Hall, would be the fact that he had a long successful career with Detriot. If you are able to stick with an organization that long, you must be doing something right. As well, with the sway that the Red Wings would have, they may be able to convince some people to get him in.

  • I have a good friend that is way into the Red Wings, and he absolutely DESPISES Osgood. I mean, watch a Red Wings game from the last couple years (before Howard was the starter).

    Osgood has them up 3-1, 4-2, whatever, and then the other team crawls their way back. Osgood lets in a tying goal with 30 seconds left, and either the winner goes in right after, or 30 seconds into OT. I must admit, I’m not a huge Red Wings fan, but that is absolutely frustrating to watch.

    He has win numbers, but it was behind excellent Red Wings teams. He stuck around a long time, but is that because of his “excellent playing ability” or Ken Holland’s refusal to sign or trade for top-tier goaltending? I don’t think he belongs in the Hall, but, only time will tell.

  • Scott

    He better not get in, because Luongo and Mclean are more deserving. Tim 57 Chevy Chveldae, Bob Essenssa, even crappy Mike Vernon could have won any of Osgood’s cups.

  • Scott

    I think the author is a bit too critical, but have to say there is something to the notion that osgood is probably a somewhat overrated. I think there are many ways to win championships, but relying on a star goalie (read:high priced) rather than a passable, if not solid goalie paid a modest NHL salary, seems to be the far riskier. Osgood could have been substituted for another goalie and they probably would have been fine. But had they overpaid for a guy like luongo or vokoun, they may not have had the money to keep the core intact. I really think too much is made of star goalies in general. I bet you that in 9 years when Bryzgalov’s contract is up, most people will see that player has being vastly overpaid. Osgood was a good caretaker for most his career, but fortunately for him he played on a great team. He probably wouldn’t be the only guy in the hall that would owe a large portion of his induction to the environment that he happened to be in.

  • Prairie Chicken by-the-Sea

    Based on the abysmally low standards set by the HHOF, Osgood is a shoe-in. I’m no baseball fan, but our HOF is an embarrassment compared to MLB’s.

  • D'oh-ilers

    If Billy Smith is in the Hall of Fame, it’s hard to argue that Osgood doesn’t belong, especially considering how good the Islanders were during their dynasty years from 75-84.

  • RKD

    Lambert you are way off. If teams could win without a solid goalie in the playoffs then Philly would have won a few Cups by now.

    The fact is Osgood is a proven playoff performer.
    He was the starter in ’98 when the Wings swept the Caps, Ozzy stopped the likes of Bondra, Oates, and the rest of the Caps. Again, ten years later Hasek was pulled in favour of Osgood when Nashville was up 2-0. Osgood marched to the Wings to the finals where he stopped the likes of Crosby, Malkin and Staal and came back to take the Wings to game 7 the following year.

    Most people say Osgood won b/c he play on good teams, Brodeur played on good teams. His 317 wins are second only to Terry Sawchuk in Wings history. His 401 wins put him tenth all time, 74 playoff wins put him 8th all time. Two Jennings awards.

    I am a massive Kipper fan but if he/the Flames don’t win a Cup do we have this same debate? Kipper is sensational, but without a Cup does he go to the HHOF for his modern day GAA record? Does he go in with one Jennings award?

    What about Luongo, his numbers will be up there but without a Cup is he HHOF material?

    • SmellOfVictory

      Regarding Kipper: GAA is shown to be team-driven as much as goaltender-driven (similar to wins). And Kipper absolutely is not a HHoF tender unless he somehow becomes amazing for six years straight. He has three insanely good seasons combined with a bunch of mediocre/awful seasons.

      Luongo may be HHoF material, IMO. I hate his greasy coif, and his douchey impression, but he’s really good.

      Let’s put it this way: you put Osgood on any team but the Wings during those years, and he doesn’t win those cups. You put any of the other starters in the NHL on the Wings during those years, they still (ignoring the butterfly effect) win the cups.

      The Flames winning a Cup with Mike Vernon are a counterexample to your claim that Philly’s recent inability to win a cup means that you need a good playoff tender to win a cup.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Mr. Lambert,
    Your artical was good at first untill you got to the part where you compaired Osgood to forwards and defencemen. I relize that Osgood not your favorite goalie. I think you made that point very clear, but common on man, great players half to play on great teams. Thats how it works mate. Osgood may never get into the Hall of Fame, just like Bernie Nichols & his 1200 points, but at least say he was good. I know he was better than Trevor Kidd, Fred Brathwaite, Rick Taberraci, Roman Turek, Andrei Trefolav (I know I spelled their names wrong)and every other junk goalie that played in Cowtown.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Philly of recent years is not anywhere near as dominant as the Wings that Osgood played for. Also, Osgood is at least NHL calibre if not exactly top tier but Philly has been using AHL goaltending recently.

    You can win with average NHL quality, but not with AHL quality ‘tending.

    Luongo belongs in one HOF for sure. The CHOF – Choking Hall of Fame (infamy). Luongo isn’t good. Go ahead, read it again. He’s big and his reflexes are good, but he chokes in the big moments and for that he should never be in the HHOF.

    • Matty Franchise Jr

      I dunno, by the standards of current hall voting (which seems to be some balance of excellence + accomplishment) Osgood probably has a shot… as much as his actual skill (excellence) is lacking he and the teams he played for did rack up the accomplishment side of the ledger enough for him to warrent consideration. Of course the real question is by what standards should one be elected to the HHOF.

      Also, Luongo (were he to retire today) is not IMO a hall worthy goalie. He’s a really good goalie (occasional meltdowns aside) but is he amoungst the best of all time? I haven’t looked at the stats but my gut says he’s probably a shade below and he lacks the personal accomplishments of other goalies there.

  • flamesfan

    $10 to get into the hall? Maybe you are still living in the ’90s. I went a couple of weeks ago and it’s $17.50. Do some research before spouting out all of this nonsense! Yeesh!

  • Stewsquared

    The Wings could have won with a Schwinn bicycle in net for all those Cups they won with Ozzy. In fact, they could have won them with Ozzy Osborne in net. I don’t like the Wings but when it comes to all things scouting and general franchise dealings there are none superior. Osgood was the Posh Spice of the team though.

  • The HHOF is more of a “Hall of Very Good”.

    Dino Ciccarelli? In.

    Joey Mullen? In.

    Lots of guys who got in because they played for a long time or were an American at the right time. Unfortunately, because of the gradual erosion of what the Hall considers to be elite it opens the door for a guy like Osgood.

    I don’t think he should be in the HOF, but I don’t think a lot of guys who are in the HOF should be there either.

    Trotting out stats like wins is a bit of a misnomer when he played a big chunk of his career in the era where there were no ties. That, combined with the Detroit juggernaught he played for, artificailly inflates his numbers to the point where the idiots voting on the HHOF probably will let him in at some point.

    The HHOF is really quite mediocre when compared to the HOF for the NFL, the NBA, and MLB. Those are much tougher clubs to learn the secret handshake to.