A few months ago – heck, even a few weeks ago – the notion seemed ludicrous: Chris Osgood for the Hall of Fame?
Some of you may even be shaking your heads and/or laughing right now.
But with the specs for his third Stanley Cup ring about to be sent to the jeweler, the question begs asking.
When the subject was raised at our offices during the final, the gut reaction from staffers at The Hockey News ranged from a categorical “no way” to a grudging “perhaps.”
When presented with some of the evidence, the tone softened.
The fact is Chris Osgood, 35, will amass more than 400 regular season wins in his career. The only other netminders who have surpassed that total and aren’t honored members are still active – Ed Belfour and Curtis Joseph. Belfour is a shoo-in for induction; Cujo is more of a longshot.
Of course, Osgood has three more rings than Joseph, two more than the Eagle and significantly less respect.
“His teams have won in spite of him,” argued one THN writer.
“There are good team goalies and bad team goalies,” opined another. “He’s a good team goalie.”
Perhaps. But that in and of itself is an acquired skill. Several times during the course of this year’s post-season, and notably in the final, Osgood made difficult saves after long periods of inactivity.
The one on Gary Roberts in the second period of Game 6 was sensational. Ask any goalie how tough that is. And ask any of his teammates, or his coach, how much heart their stopper has; how much confidence they have in him.
Check his stats and you’ll see Osgood has never had a losing regular season in the NHL. That’s never, as in none. Zero.
Naturally, he has huge supporters in coach Mike Babcock and GM Ken Holland, both of whom feel Osgood is underrated.
And while Henrik Zetterberg edged him for the Conn Smythe, Osgood would have been a worthy recipient.
Does anyone now believe the Wings would have won the Cup if they’d had to rely on Dominik Hasek? Since relieving the Dominator in Game 4 of the first round, Osgood posted a 14-4 record, a playoffs-best 1.55 goals-against average and finished third among stoppers with a stellar .930 save percentage.
As another colleague asked: “Other than Ken Dryden’s brilliant run in 1971-72, what’s the difference between Osgood and Dryden? Dryden won all those Cups, but was only facing 18 shots a night.”
One difference is perception and Osgood – whose career wins total (363 and counting) and GAA of 2.43 is better than a good handful of his masked brethren who’ve already been inducted – can’t shake a reputation forged around a few memorable, soft goals.
Of course, what goalie hasn’t allowed a handful of stinkers? Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, Dryden, Hasek – they’ve all been guilty of lapses.
The other contentious point is Osgood has never been recognized as the best at his position in a given season. He has one second-team all-star berth and shared the Jennings twice, once with Mike Vernon in ’96 and once with Hasek this season.
Maybe this is where he gets the Mike Gartner treatment. Gartner, a fabulously consistent player over the course of his career, was inducted in 2001 having never won a major individual award.
As for perception, maybe Osgood’s choice of facial protection is part of the equation. That helmet-and-cage style mask went out with Kelly Hrudey and Ken Wregget. Somehow it still looks temporary, dated, garage league.
Fortunately for the Wings, the mask works to Osgood’s advantage on the ice where he proved, once again on Wednesday night, he’s a true winner.
Jason Kay is the editor of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog normally appears every weekend.
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