Chris Osgood’s Hall-worthiness up for debate
Detroit — If you ever want to start a long argument in a local sports bar, speak up and assert that Chris Osgood, the retired Red Wings goalie and current broadcaster, should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
There are opinions, some believe about equally as strong, for and against.
Appreciating their goalies as they often do, with considerable ambivalence, even some Wings fans are dubious.
Handicapping the annual inductions is always hazardous. But Osgood seems to be up against the odds, once again, with many thinking that Eric Lindros and, perhaps, Mark Recchi are favored when the announcement is made this afternoon.
Although he won three Stanley Cups for the Wings, including two as a starter, ranks eighth all-time with 74 playoff wins, fourth all-time with 15 playoff shutouts and sixth all-time with a 53.9 percent winning percentage, Osgood is not often touted.
Some say he inconsistently stopped the puck, and even Osgood occasionally jokes about not working hard.
Some say he never would have won three Cups without the powerful Red Wings teams of 1998 and 2008, and he sat on the bench in 1997 and watched Mike Vernon start in the playoffs.
Supporters wonder if his easy-going personality and all the practical joking over the years, for which he and his fellow Musketeers, Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby, are credited — and Draper and Maltby say it was “always Ozzie” — helps steer the selection committee of the Hockey Hall of Fame away from naming him and inductee.
(Unlikely considerations, especially because some members of the selection committee were also mild-mannered practical jokers in their days in the NHL and quality practical jokes have been long valued in the league.)
Third time lucky?
The Hockey Hall of Fame will announce the 2017 inductees today, in Toronto. The selection committee is considering Osgood for a third time since he became eligible in 2014 for the 2015 class.
There are currently 37 goalies in enshrined, including five who played for the Red Wings, Ed Giacomin, Glenn Hall, Dominik Hasek, Harry Lumley and Terry Sawchuk.
Others include Georges Vezina, the guy for whom they named the trophy, and the great Russian Vladislav Tretiak, who never played in the NHL, although the Canadiens drafted him in 1983.
The exclusivity of the Hockey Hall of Fame seems even greater for goaltenders, with only five NHL goalies inducted in the past 28 years.
Of Osgood’s era, four goalies have been inducted in this century, Hasek (2014), Ed Belfour (2011), Patrick Roy (2006) and Grant Fuhr (2003).
The only goalie inducted in the 1990s was Billy Smith (1993).
Both Fuhr and Smith played in a different era, the 1980s, when scoring predominated.
Increasingly, throughout Osgood, Hasek, Belfour and Roy’s careers, defense ruled. Creative coaches enacted new deployment schemes. Fewer goals allowed increasingly was seen as the key to winning Stanley Cups — as it had been in most years of the NHL until the 1970s.
Ranked with the four goalies inducted in this decade, Osgood is:
■ Third in Stanley Cup wins as a starter with two, behind Fuhr (five) and Roy (four).
■ Second in goals-against average in the playoffs at 2.09, behind Hasek (2.02).
■ Third in save percentage in the playoffs at .916, behind Roy (.910) and Hasek (9.15)
■ Second in playoff shutouts with 15, behind Roy (23).
■ Second in goals-against average in the regular season at 2.49, trailing Hasek (2.20).
■ Fourth in save percentage in the regular season at .905, trailing Hasek (.922), Roy (.910) and Belfour (.906)
■ Fourth in regular-season shutouts at 50, behind Hasek (81), Belfour (76) and Roy (66).
In addition, Osgood’s winning percentage, 53.9 percent, is fourth all-time in the NHL.
And yet, it seems, Osgood faces prohibitive odds.
The selection committee has been generous with the Red Wings in recent years, including the inductions of Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov last season amid a scene in Toronto that was like a three-day Detroit party. Politically, the selectors may look to another franchise.
Meanwhile, in addition to Selanne and Alfredsson, some prognosticators rank Jean-Sebastien Giguere ahead of Osgood. Giguere won one Cup as a starter in 2007 and the Conn Smythe award for most valuable player in the playoffs in 2003, and his statistics are comparable.
But even Giguere’s 1.62 goals-against average in the 2003 playoffs, when Mike Babcock’s Mighty Ducks swept the Wings in the first round and played in the Stanley Cup Final, is exceeded by what Osgood accomplished in 2008 when he bailed out a struggling Hasek four games into the playoffs and was arguably the major contributor to the franchise’s last Stanley Cup.
Osgood allowed an average of 1.55 goals per game.
But Henrik Zetterberg, whose 13 goals helped propel the Red Wings and whose 27 points set a franchise record, took the Conn Smythe.
Osgood has seen 15 of his former teammates enter the Hockey Hall of Fame, from Viacheslav Fetisov to Mike Modano.
Is it his year?
The handicappers seem to think it is not, once again.
As the Hockey News said of Osgood’s possible induction in his first year of eligibility, “He is the Rodney Dangerfield of goaltenders. He gets no respect.”
CHRIS OSGOOD’S CAREER STATS
401-216-29 record (wins rank 11th all-time)
53.9 winning percentage (6th all-time)
.905 save percentage
74-49 record (wins 8th all-time)
.916 save percentage
15 shutouts (4th all-time)
3 Stanley Cups (1997, 1998, 2008 – starter in 1998 and 2008)
NHL career from 1992-2011 with the Red Wings, Blues and Islanders.
Won William M. Jennings Trophy (GAA) twice – 1995-96 with Mike Vernon and 2007-08 with Dominik Hasek.
Four-time NHL All Star.
Led NHL in GAA in 2008 in regular season (2.09) and playoffs (1.55).
Led NHL in wins in 1996 (39).
First goalie since Terry Sawchuk (1955 Red Wings, 1967 Maple Leafs) to win Stanley Cups as starter 10 years apart.