Chris Osgood deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
Get over it.
As the Detroit Red Wings' seasoned netminder sits on the cusp of 400 NHL wins, debate on his credentials as an elite goaltender are sure to pop up again. They always do. Every time Osgood does something noteworthy, his detractors always find a way to diminish it.
He's lucky. Anybody can win with Nicklas Lidstrom playing in front of them. He's always played on good teams.
The excuses to exclude him from the Hall of Fame seem endless. Puck Daddy blogger Ryan Lambert went as far as criticizing him for not using Twitter in a recent post. The things people will do to discredit this guy is amazing.
There's an old rule in Detroit that the two most difficult positions to play are Red Wings goaltender and Lions quarterback. You have to have a thick skin to succeed here. Osgood certainly has it.
If he didn't have that thick personality, he would have been gone a long time ago. In fact, he was gone for a while when the team put him on waivers nine years ago. But here he is yet again, dividing fans once more.
Osgood's 399 wins rank 10th all-time, trailing Grant Fuhr by just four, Glenn Hall by eight and Tony Esposito by 24. If he plays two more seasons, even in a backup role, it's highly possible he could end up as high as seventh on the all-time list.
Winning three Stanley Cups hasn't helped his cause much either; many have labeled him as the worst goaltender to ever win hockey's ultimate prize. Not only is that unfair, it's also untrue. Whether he's the best, worst or somewhere in the middle, the fact is he's won three of the damn things, two in a starting role. How many NHL goalies can claim that feat? Not many.
Osgood has caught a lot of flak over the past two seasons, and deservedly so. He posted a goals against average of 3.09 and a .887 save percentage in 2008-09, easily the worst numbers of his career. Last season he battled injuries and didn't play well when he was healthy, leading to rookie Jimmy Howard taking over the starting role from him, a position he hasn't regained since.
Now 38 and nearing the end of his career, Osgood has turned from Stanley Cup hero in 2008 to mentor.
Osgood missed the entire month of November with a groin injury this year, but his play before and after he went down was encouraging. Osgood is coming off perhaps his best performance of the season, a 4-1 win last Saturday over New Jersey and fellow top ten NHL wins member Martin Brodeur. So far this year he's 3-2-1 with a 2.48 GAA and a .907 save percentage, much more Osgood-like numbers.
The biggest knack against Osgood throughout his career is that he's an average goaltender playing on an outstanding team. While true the Red Wings have been one of the NHL's best teams during Osgood's career, can you really detract from someone's success just because their team was good?
Think of the Patrick Roy-led Avalanche of the 1990s and early 2000s and the Martin Brodeur-led Devils of the same period. Scott Stevens, Joe Nieuwendyk, Brian Rafalski, Joe Sakic, Raymond Borque, Peter Forsberg; the names can go on forever. I'd say those were some pretty good teams too. Yet no one ever takes anything away from what Brodeur or Roy have done. Osgood, on the other hand, can't hack it. Yeah, the logic stymies me, too.
It didn't help Osgood's cause in 2001 when they essentially said that he wasn't good enough for them. After blowing a 2-0 series lead to an underdog Los Angeles Kings team in that year's playoffs, the Red Wings traded away Vyacheslav Kozlov to Buffalo for former Vezina winner Dominik Hasek.
The result of the deal landed Osgood on waivers. He bounced between the New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues over the next couple seasons before landing back in Detroit five years ago as tandem team with Manny Legace, and eventually Hasek's backup in 2008.
When the 2008 playoffs rolled around, Hasek stumbled and Osgood was once again there to pick up the slack. Osgood proceeded to win nine straight playoff games, posting a 14-4 record with a 1.55 GAA, including back-to-back shutouts to open the Stanley Cup Finals.
Go ahead, talk down about Osgood's numbers and how he doesn't deserve to even be in the Hall of Fame conversation. He's too busy polishing his Stanley Cup rings to notice.
Fans in Detroit have a love/hate relationship with Osgood. They'll chant "Oz-zie! Oz-zie" when he does something great, but they're just as quick to jump on his back when he falters. But the best part about it all is that Osgood doesn't care either way. Ask any reporter and they'll tell you one of the best personalities on the team belongs to No. 30. He caused a little bit of a ruckus last year when he complained about playing time, but for the most part Osgood has taken everything in stride.
Osgood will get his first crack at the 400 wins milestone this Sunday against the Dallas Stars at Joe Louis Arena. Originally slated to start at the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday, coach Mike Babcock decided to give him the home start instead so he could try for the win in front of the Detroit crowd and his family. After all he's done for the franchise, he deserves at least that.