Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chris Osgood, Hall of Famer?

Chris Osgood has finally decided to hang up his pads and doff his Cooper player's helmet. After a lengthy career spent mostly in Detroit, he has amassed 401 wins, tenth on the all-time list. Perhaps more notably, he won three Stanley Cups with the Red Wings, two of those as a starter. So of course, the question is being asked: is Chris Osgood a Hall of Famer?

In my mind, he's not close. Osgood has been as great a beneficiary of good teammates as any long-time NHLer. Through 17 career seasons, he was almost always on a winning team. For 14 of those 17 seasons, Nick Lidstrom was playing in front of him.

Let's compare Osgood to Nik Khabibulin, who is right next to him on the career games-played list (743 to Osgood's 744). Khabibulin has posted a better save-percentage over his career - .907 to Osgood's .905. Yet no one would dream to consider Khabibulin an all-time great. He has had some nice seasons, and had a great cup-winning run with Tampa Bay in '02. Even so, though, he has played with bad teams for much of his career. Even with a better save percentage, Khabby's career GAA is 2.72 to Osgood's 2.49. Just 316 wins to Osgood's 401.

Granted, Osgood was consistently excellent in the playoffs, but you know what? His playoff save percentage was lower than Khabibulin's, too. Worse than Dwayne Roloson's; worse than Olaf Kolzig; worse than Patrick Lalime. You need more than great goaltending to win in the playoffs; having Nick Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Steve Yzerman in front of you as well can really help.

In the two years where Osgood won the cup as a starter (96-97 and 97-98), the Wings had five current Hall of Famers in the lineup both years: Yzerman, Lidstrom, Larionov, Larry Murphy, and Slava Fetisov. In addition, they had two sure-fire soon-to-be-elected members: Shanahan and Fedorov. Seven of eighteen skaters in the Hall of Fame. But that's not all; they also featured the reknowned Draper-Maltby-McCarty checking line, and a pile of other quality guys to boot: Tomas Holmstrom, Slava Kozlov, Tim Taylor, Vlad Konstantinov, and Martin Lapointe. This team could have won with pretty much anyone in net.

When he wasn't in Detroit, Osgood spent three 'prime years' on some good teams for the Islanders and Blues. During those years, though, he put up a 2.51 GAA - above his career average, even with Chris Pronger in front of him half that time.

Chris Osgood was never a guy people considered to be the best in the league; he was always overshadowed by the likes of Roy, Hasek, and Brodeur, and rightly so. He is not a Hall-of-Fame goalie. His regular-season and playoff numbers, while obviously not bad, are seriously inflated by the quality of his teammates.

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