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.