Chris Osgood retired from the NHL on Tuesday, ending a 17-year NHL career in which he won 401 games and three Stanley Cups. Every other goalie that's won 400 or more games in the NHL is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, and based solely on that, you'd think that Osgood should be a member of the Hall as well.
It's a debate that's been raging on for at least a few months now, since Osgood won that 400th game at the end of the 2010-11 season. It's probably gone on longer than that, too, and there are a million reasons to argue in each direction.
Red Wings fans and Osgood supporters will tell you that you can't argue with 400 wins, no matter how flawed the Goalie Wins stat is in hockey (just like the win-loss record for a pitcher in baseball is flawed) and three Stanley Cups.
They'll tell you that Osgood was an integral piece of the Red Wings' drive to those Cups and that, as Osgood himself many times, it doesn't matter that he played behind a great team and an elite defense. He still had to stop the pucks. Oh, and he's "clutch" and "a winner" and stuff -- you know, juvenile ways to analyze player performance.
There is such a thing as a player that benefits from playing on a great team. That doesn't take anything away from that player necessarily -- Osgood still won 400 games and three Stanley Cups, after all -- but that doesn't mean we should pump extra air into his balloon because of it, either. It's a factor that has to be considered.
For me, it's a simple question: is Chris Osgood a Hockey Legend? Hell, until just a few weeks ago, that was the name of the Hockey Hall of Fame's website: LegendsOfHockey.net. (They've since changed to the much more logical HHOF.com, but the point still stands.)
Hell, just look at the Wings' philosophy. They've never consistently committed a ton of dollars to the goaltending position, instead opting to beef up other parts of their team while relying on lesser skill in net to get them through. It's worked for them four times since 1997, and three of those times, Osgood was one of their goalies.
Again, that's not to discredit Osgood's contributions, especially in the 2008 postseason when he was utterly fantastic. But that doesn't make him a legend in the sport of hockey. He's an above-average goaltender who benefited by playing on some really, really great teams, and if you don't believe that his team affiliation had anything to do with his success, all you have to do is look at save percentage, a stat (unlike goalie wins) that actually matters.
Here's Osgood's career regular season save percentage in comparison to the combined save percentage of the other goaltenders he played with across his 17 year NHL career in Detroit, St. Louis and New York.
|Chris Osgood||GP||SA||Svs||Save %|
This brings context to the whole "he's only good because of the team's he played for" argument.
Side-by-side, the combined save percentage of the other goalies that played on the exact same teams that Osgood did -- we're talking guys ranging from Dominik Hasek, a future Hall of Famer himself, to Jimmy Howard and Garth Snow, Fred Brathwaite and Brent Johnson -- are right on par with Osgood's career numbers. A two percentage-point difference.
What's so legendary about a player that's directly on par with his peers? Chris Osgood was a very solid goalie in the NHL for a very long time, and that helped the Red Wings earn a few Stanley Cups along the way.
This is something to celebrate, for certain. It's not something to enshrine.