It always amazes me to hear various pundits, fans and sports talk radio host discuss the career of Chris Osgood and not consider him a surefire Hall of Famer. While they may be in the minority, there are still far too many of them. Today we will clear up this misguided thinking.
Osgood has now earned his 400th career win, becoming only the 10th goaltender to accomplish this feat. That alone puts him among the best goaltenders to ever play the game. Of the other 9 goalies to have reached that number, 6 are already in the hall and the other 3 are not eligible yet. The main knock against Osgood seems to be that he has played for the Detroit Red Wings during their dominance over the past 15 seasons. I believe another strong, yet under mentioned reason is that Osgood has played his career during the same period as the top two goaltenders to ever play, Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy.
Using the argument that playing for the Red Wings is what made Osgood a great goalie is a weak argument. Do we discount Jerry Rice because Joe Montana was throwing the ball to him? How about Messier as he played with Gretzky? Are Shaq or Kobe any less great for playing next to each other? Sure Osgood has enjoyed looking down the ice to see such hockey greats as Steve Yzerman, Nick Lidstrom and Larry Murphy playing in front of him. But Roy and Brodeur have shared the ice with the likes of Guy Carbonneau, Ray Bourke, Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Scott Neidermeyer, and Scott Stevens just to name a few. Look through the current list of Hall of Fame goaltenders and notice how many of them played with Hall of Fame players. Holding Osgood to the teammate standard really does a disservice to the great players that Roy, Brodeur and the current Hall of Fame goalies have played with. In addition I find it odd how the assumption is that Osgood was better because of who played in front of him. Is it not also possible that those players in front of him were allowed to player better, freer or more aggressively knowing that he was protecting the net behind them?
As Osgood, Roy and Brodeur have played during the same period we will look at their stats. Each of them has won multiple Stanley Cups. Pulling the stats from each of their championship seasons shows that Osgood holds his own against these two powerhouse goaltenders. Also, by using the championship seasons for each of these players we can see how they performed when they were each on dominant championship teams. This further tears apart the superior team theory that is used against Osgood, yet mysteriously not against other goalies. Roy won 4 cups (86, 93, 96 and 01 Montreal / Avalanche) Brodeur 3 (94, 00 and 03 New Jersey) and Osgood 3 (97, 98 and 08 Red Wings). The below chart shows the averages of those seasons:
Wins % avg
How does Osgood compare to the goalies currently in the Hall of Fame? There have been 35 inductees. Discounting the stats of those who played most or all of their careers outside of the NHL we see that the average win total is 268 with a goals against average of 2.64. Osgood is at 400 wins and climbing with a 2.49 goals against. Now these numbers do include players from eras long ago. There are always issues with comparing players’ stats over such a long time period. Let’s narrow the focus down to the three goalies that have been inducted over the past 20 years; Patrick Roy, Grant Fuhr and Billy Smith. Osgood has a better goals against average then all three of them, less losses and is second to Roy in save percentage.
Looking deeper at Smith and Fuhr we see two goaltenders who, like Osgood, played behind some amazing teams. Smith was in net for the New York Islanders run of four Stanley Cups in the early 1980’s and Fuhr played behind the great Edmonton Oilers teams during their run of four Stanley cups in the mid to late 1980’s. Osgood is well ahead of Smith’s win total and is only 3 behind Fuhr while playing in 126 less games. His goals against and save percentage is far ahead of both of these Hall of Famers. He has more shut outs than Fuhr and Smith do combined. Each of these three played on some great teams and Osgood’s stats show that he outplayed Fuhr and Smith. Why then is Osgood the only one that has his play discounted due to the teams he has played on?
One sign of a great goalie is one that makes the team better. While Osgood has played on some great Red Wing teams, he has not played his entire career with Detroit. During the 2001-2002 season, Osgood moved to the New York Islanders. The year prior to his arrival, the Islanders had only won 21 games and earned 52 points. During his first season they jumped to 42 wins and 96 points. They have yet to earn that many points in a season since he left. He then spent just over 1 season with the St Louis Blues. They were already a good team when he arrived and he helped them to 90+ point seasons during his stay. The first season after he left they plummeted to a 57 point season. While one player usually is not 100% responsible for rises or falls this dramatic it does show how the steady performance of Osgood has greatly helped teams that he has played on.
In the playoffs is where goalies make the jump to greatness. Osgood has very impressive stats in the playoffs. He is 4th all time in playoff shutouts, 8th in playoffs wins and 14th in goals against average. In fact his career 2.09 GAA in the playoffs is better than such hockey greats as Patrick Roy, Jacques Plante and Ken Dryden. Of the players ranked ahead of him only 3 others have played in at least 100 playoff games. In addition he ranks ahead of 30 Hall of Fame goaltenders.
Additional Stats for Osgood
-Currently 24th on the all time shutouts list with 50
-10th in all time wins
- Two time Williams Jennings Trophy winner
-Scored a goal
-1995-1996 Led NHL with 2.17 goals against
-2007-2008 Led NHL goals against 2.09
-1995-1996 Led NHL with 39 wins
-First goaltender since Terry Sawchuk to win Stanly Cups 10 years apart
Clearly Osgood belongs in the Hall of Fame. His numbers put him among the elite of goaltenders. He owns a better win% and goals against average than Roy and ranks among the all time leaders in several categories. It appears that his main crime is that his name is not Roy, Brodeur or even Hasek, Plante or Sawchuck. The numbers don’t lie, once he is eligible the hall needs to make room for another goalie.