Seriously, North America, do we really have to do this again?
Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood has officially retired from the National Hockey League after 17 seasons. Osgood finishes his career with three Stanley Cup rings (two as a starter), 401 wins and a boatload of people arguing that he's not worthy of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
If you mention the words Hall of Fame and Osgood within five seconds of each other you'll get at least three Osgood haters on your case immediately. They can smell it when somebody tries using 'statistics' and 'logic' to make a case for Osgood.
Frankly, it's a little old.
It feels like we have been having this conversation for the last decade, filled with arguments that mostly attack him for playing on a good team. Never mind that great goaltenders like Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur played on some pretty good teams, too. Nope, Osgood is different and I still can't figure it out. Let's have a look at the most common anti-Osgood arguments:
Anyone could win with the Red Wings/Osgood played on really good teams.
Really? Then why did Curtis Joseph and Manny Legace not pan out here? Tim Cheveldae?
Even Mike Vernon, who won Detroit a Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1997, lasted all of three years. Dominik Hasek won a Cup for the Wings in 2002, came back as the starter in 2008 and was pulled four games into the playoffs -- in favor of Osgood. If you recall, Osgood won the next nine games in a row on the way to another ring and damn near won a Conn Smythe for himself.
Detroit isn't where goalies go for fame and popularity. It's where their careers go to die most of the time.
It's absolutely brutal playing goalie in Hockeytown. Even second-year player Jimmy Howard, who Osgood lost his job to two years ago, has not been exempt from criticism. Just like a quarterback for the Lions, you don't stay here long unless you have tough skin and produce results.
Osgood did both.
And people conveniently forget that Osgood didn't just win with the Red Wings. Osgood spent three seasons with the New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues, teams that no one would consider "stacked" (though the Blues were markedly better than the Islanders) and won 84 times. That works out to a three-season average of 28 wins. Not bad for a guy who can only supposedly win when his team is filled with All- .
And that brings us to hate-nugget No. 2:
Chris Osgood was never the best player in the league or even on his own team.
No, he wasn't, save for the 2008 and possibly 2009 playoff runs. And no one has ever argued anything to the contrary.
But you could say the same thing about other great goaltenders. Take Grant Fuhr for instance. He has two more wins (403) and two more Stanley Cups (5), but his career numbers are rather pedestrian. He played in a slightly different era, but it wasn't that far ahead of Osgood's time. Fuhr never won a Stanley Cup as a starter without a little fella named Wayne Gretzky on his team (his fifth Cup came in 1990 as a backup to Bill Ranford).
I'll go back even further: Terry Sawchuk. Oh yes, I went there. Sawchuk is considered the greatest Red Wings goalie of all-time and no one questions his status in the Hall of Fame. I'd say he played with some pretty good players too: Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Sid Abel, Alex Delvecchio and Red Kelly, among others. And that doesn't include his stints with the Maple Leafs, Bruins, Kings and Rangers.
And last but certainly not least:
Chris Osgood doesn't have the individual awards.
He does have individual awards. And he should have at least two more.
The "Osgood doesn't have any awards" routine is why I wish Osgood had won the Conn Smythe Trophy back in 2008 when he carried the team to the Stanley Cup. After Hasek was unable to instill confidence after the first four games, Osgood won 14 of the next 18 games for Detroit on the way to the title, pitching three shutouts while stopping 93 percent of his shots. His playoff goals against average was 1.55, nearly a half-goal better than his nearest counterpart (which, ironically, was Marc-Andre Fleury, his opponent in the Finals).
But to my disappointment, the trophy went to teammate Henrik Zetterberg, who tied Sidney Crosby for the playoff scoring lead. Zetterberg got the hardware, but we all know who got them there. If Zetterberg hadn't killed off that 5-on-3 in Game 4 all by himself (scoring the Cup-winning goal didn't hurt, either), Osgood probably wins the Smythe and we wouldn't be having this discussion for the millionth time.
Damn you Zetterberg, damn you!
Osgood does have some individual accolades: two William M. Jennings Awards -- shared with Vernon and Hasek in 1996 and 2008, respectively -- for lowest goals allowed and three NHL All-Star selections. No Vezinas, no Harts, no Smythes. The only time Osgood got close was when he was a runner-up for the Vezina in 1996 when he led the league in wins and goals against (how Jim freaking Carey won I will never understand).
This is what you'll hear in a few years when Osgood becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame. People will bring up these arguments and probably a few more that I don't care to discuss. Whether he gets in the Hall in three, five or even ten years, he will be there, with his disgustingly good-looking boyish portrait staring at you. And the haters will have to live with that.
I'm not saying that as someone looking through Red Wing-colored glasses. I'm saying that because the previous standards set by the Hall of Fame warrant it.
How do you leave him out? Never mind the great players he played with, just look at the pure stats. Every goaltender with 400 wins except Joseph, who is not eligible yet, and Brodeur (who is still active) is in the Hall of Fame. Every single one. Joseph and Brodeur will probably be joining the list shortly, too.
Look at other sports milestones. In baseball 28 players have reached 3,000 hits. All of them except Rafael Palmeiro, whose career has been tarnished by steroids, are in the Hall of Fame. On the defensive side, 24 pitchers have accumulated 300 wins. All are enshrined in Cooperstown.
Joining the 400-win club as Osgood has done is the hockey equivalent of those feats. The Hall of Fame isn't made for the super-elite, nor should it be. If it were only for only the super-elite, only Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky would probably qualify.
Do I consider Osgood one of the super-elite players of all-time? No. But he was one hell of a competitor for 17 seasons, and that's something you can't argue.