Even when he's not playing, Chris Osgood somehow manages to generate a debate in Hockeytown.
Osgood was the center of a tribute during Sunday's nationally televised game between the Red Wings and Boston Bruins at Joe Louis Arena (which NBC so graciously decided wasn't worthy of airing), in honor of picking up his 400th NHL win on Dec. 27 against Colorado. Osgood got his own tribute video and celebration with his family as the Red Wings' netminder continues to recover from hernia surgery that has kept him out of action since picking up his 401st career win in Edmonton on Jan. 5.
Osgood's career numbers certainly put him in consideration for the Hockey Hall of Fame, as he sits tenth in all-time wins among NHL goalies. His fans and detractors have debated whether he belongs there or not for seemingly decades, but only time will tell if and when he gets there.
However, another valid point in this conversation doesn't have to do with how Osgood is recognized by the NHL for his accomplishments. Rather, there is now a legitimate debate within the Red Wings organization on how the team should honor Osgood's career. Sunday's tribute was nice, but is it really enough for someone who only has nine other names ahead of him in NHL history?
Terry Foster of the Detroit News thinks the Red Wings should take the ultimate step: hang up Osgood's No. 30 for good.
Osgood has Hall of Fame numbers and is an icon in this community. Fans love Osgood as much as any athlete in recent memory. He's the quiet and humble kid from Canada who never lost his youthful looks but matured into a man.
To retire a player's number is the ultimate respect a franchise can bestow on one of its players. The Red Wings, one of the oldest teams in the NHL, have done it just six times in their 85 years of operation: Gordie Howe's No. 9, Sid Abel's No. 12, Ted Lindsay's No. 7, Alex Delvecchio's No. 10, Terry Sawchuk's No. 1 and most recently Steve Yzerman's No. 19. To give some scope on Osgood's worthiness to join that category, let's look at some key numbers for each of the aforementioned players:
#9 Gordie Howe
Vital stats (NHL): 801 goals, 1049 assists, 1850 points, 23-time NHL All-Star, 1972 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee (HHOF)
#12 Sid Abel
189 goals, 283 assists, 472 points, 1949 Hart Trophy winner, 1969 HHOF Inductee
#7 Ted Lindsay
379 goals, 472 assists, 851 points, Red Wings captain 1952-56, 8-time NHL All-Star, 1966 HHOF inductee
#10 Alex Delvecchio
456 goals, 825 points, 1281 points, 13-time NHL All-Star, Red Wings captain 1962-73, 1977 HHOF inductee
#19 Steve Yzerman
692 goals, 1063 assists, 1755 points, 10-time NHL All-Star, Red Wings captain 1986-2006, 2009 HHOF inductee
The last member, Terry Sawchuk, pertains the most relevance to Osgood; Sawchuk is the only netminder to have his number in the Joe Louis rafters. Sawchuk is the Red Wings' all-time leader in wins with 352, a record that Osgood (317) at age 38 and now a backup probably won't surpass. Then again, Osgood's win total is nearly double that of Harry Lumley, whose 163 is next in line.
Sawchuk's 2.52 goals against average compares well with Osgood's 2.49. Sawchuk is the runaway winner in shutouts, as he leads Osgood 85-39 in team history and 103-50 overall (in fairness to Osgood, no one came close to that number until Martin Brodeur broke the record in 2009).
There is one area where Osgood has a leg up on number retirement: the playoffs. Osgood is the Wings' postseason leader in games played (110), victories (67) and shutouts (14).
Looking at the numbers, it's fair to say that Osgood does in fact deserve to be honored with the Red Wings' greats. Some will still say that Osgood's numbers were the benefit of him playing on great teams, rather than him being great. But what goalie, or any player for that matter, in recent memory that had success and is considered Hall of Fame worthy didn't play on a great team? You'd be hard pressed to find one.
With that in mind, let's step outside the Red Wings organization for a moment and see what other teams have done for great goalies. Of the nine names ahead of him on the NHL's wins list, only leader Martin Brodeur (615) is still active. Without a doubt his number will one day be hanging in the Meadowlands. But what about the others? Let's take a look. (Note: save percentage won't be taken in consideration because the NHL didn't always track this stat.)
Patrick Roy (primary teams: Canadiens, Avalanche)
551 wins, 2.54 GAA, 66 shutouts, 4 Stanley Cups, 3-time Conn Smythe winner, 3-time Vezina winner, 11-time NHL-All-Star, 2006 HHOF inductee. No. 33 retired by both Montreal and Colorado.
Curtis Joseph (Blues, Maple Leafs)
454 wins, 2.79 GAA, 51 shutouts, 2-time NHL-All Star. Number not retired by any of the teams he played for. Also never won Stanley Cup or Vezina, a key reason some believe he should be excluded from the Hall of Fame.
Jacques Plante (Canadiens)
437 wins, 2.38 GAA, 82 shutouts, 8-time NHL All-Star, 6 Stanley Cups, 7-time Vezina winner, 1978 HHOF inductee. No. 1 retired by Montreal.
Tony Esposito (Blackhawks)
423 wins, 2.92 GAA, 76 shutouts, 3-time Vezina winner, 1 Stanley Cup, 6-time NHL All-Star, 1988 HHOF inductee. No. 35 retired by Blackhawks.
Glenn Hall (Blackhawks, Red Wings, Blues)
407 wins, 2.49 GAA, 84 shutouts, 13-time NHL All-Star, 3-time Vezina winner, 1968 Conn Smythe, 2 Stanley Cups. No. 1 retired by Blackhawks.
Grant Fuhr (Oilers, Blues)
403 wins, 3.38 GAA, 25 shutouts, 5 Stanley Cups, 1988 Vezina, 6-time NHL-All Star, 2003 HHOF inductee. No. 31 retired by Oilers.
As you can see, having a boatload of wins and shutouts doesn't automatically equal having your number retired. Retired numbers are a serious thing that franchises consider; the Toronto Maple Leafs have only done it twice in their long history.
Belfour and Joseph are the glaring examples of this as neither has had their numbers honored by any of their former clubs. Joseph's lack of Stanley Cups and a Vezina are the primary arguments for him not being in the HOF. Belfour's lone Cup in 1999 and subsequent off-ice problems with alcohol may keep him out as well.
One commonality between these goaltenders: every single one that has made the Hall of Fame has had his number retired.
But that again brings up another interesting side note to the conversation with Osgood; there are some people who strongly believe he doesn't belong in the HOF. Osgood has never won the Vezina as the league's top goalie or the Conn Smythe as the playoff MVP. If you follow that logic, then Osgood's number shouldn't hang from the rafters when he's done.
However, there may be other coming precedents that favor having Osgood's jersey retired even if he doesn't make the HOF. Dominik Hasek (11th all-time in wins) is considered a future Hall of Famer; he retired in 2008 from the NHL but is still playing in the KHL at the tender age of 45. But, he has yet to be honored by either the Buffalo Sabres or the Blackhawks, the two primary teams of his NHL career (possibly because he still won't quit). In the same breath, former New York Rangers goalie Mike Richter (301 wins, 24th all-time) has his No. 35 in the rafters at Madison Square Garden, yet he is not a member of the Hall of Fame.
Another thing to take into consideration in all of this: Nicklas Lidstrom. While the Red Wings' wonder man defenseman is still putting up All-Star numbers at age 40, he won't play forever. And when he does quit, his No. 5 is a shoe-in to land in the rafters. Will the Red Wings retire two numbers in such a short span of time? Then again, Lindsay and Delvecchio's jerseys were retired on the same night (though they had long since been out of the NHL).
Personally, I've been advocating Osgood being in the Hall of Fame for a long time, for the fact that his stats simply warrant it. He's part of the exclusive 400-club, but more importantly he has three Stanley Cup rings; something Belfour and Joseph don't have that's likely keeping them out of the Hall. He's never been named a Vezina winner or been considered the best at his position, but keep in mind he played most of his career while Roy, Hasek and Brodeur were busy snapping those up. Are we to detract from his accomplishments because he had to play in the shadow of three of the greatest goalies ever? Should Yzerman have been left out because he never won a scoring title or Hart Trophy playing in the primes of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux? I think not.
So with that in mind, I'll abide by my own logic for Osgood's HOF credentials and apply it to number retirement: his stats simply warrant it. Osgood is either first or second in nearly every vital statistical category in team history; only Jimmy Howard has even a remote chance of catching him, and he's got a long way to go. Yzerman was second to Howe in the same way, and we all know what happened with him.
But I am just a wee little blogger, so what do I really know? I'll leave the rest of the discussion up to Red Wings fans.
Chris Osgood: By The Numbers (NHL all-time rank in parentheses)
744 games (18th)
401 wins (10th)
50 shutouts (24th)
129 playoff games (9th)
74 playoff wins (8th)
15 playoff shutouts (4th)
3-time Stanley Cup champion (1997,1998, 2008)
3-time NHL All-Star (1996, 1997-injured/did not play, 2008)
2-time William M. Jennings winner (fewest goals allowed)