Let’s take a little break from the current Detroit Red Wings rebuild to address something that keeps coming up every year:
Is Chris Osgood worthy of a Hockey Hall of Fame induction?
401 wins and 3 Stanley Cups
I suppose it’s such a topic of interest based on his involvement with the Red Wings broadcast team. FOX/Bally Sports Detroit seem to bring up his career accomplishments before and during every game.
He’s always been a charismatic player, too -- a fan-favorite type of guy -- and a lot of that has to do with the fact that he was a consistently reliable goalie on very, very, VERY good Red Wings teams.
Osgood retired from the NHL in 2011. He became eligible for the HHOF in 2014. Since then three other goalies have been inducted:
- 2014: Dominik Hasek
- 2016: Rogie Vachon
- 2018: Martin Brodeur
Here’s how Osgood’s career stats stack up against those three:
Yes, that’s 401 wins for Osgood. That’s good enough for 13th all-time in the history of the NHL -- 10 more wins than Ryan Miller’s 391 and just 2 wins shy of Grant Fuhr’s 403. Fuhr is a 2003 HHOF inductee. More on Miller later.
And here’s a look at the career playoff stats for these goalies, including how many Stanley Cups each won:
Osgood’s 74 career playoff wins put him at 9th on the all-time leaders list. Patrick Roy is No. 1 with 151 wins, followed by Brodeur’s 113 wins. Osgood actually sits right behind teammate Mike Vernon, who had 77 career playoff wins, and just ahead of legendary Montreal Canadiens goalie Jacques Plante’s 71 wins. Plante, of course, played during an era when teams played much fewer games in the playoffs.
And keep that era-adjusted amount of games in mind for this next stat: Osgood won 67 playoff games as Red Wings goalie (remember he had stints with the New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues before returning to Detroit). That’s the most of any Red Wings goalie. Terry Sawchuk won 46 playoff games with the Red Wings but, again, he played during the Original Six era when teams could play as few as 8 games on their way to a Stanley Cup championship.
Notes about Stanley Cup championships
Osgood won three Stanley Cups with the Red Wings -- 1997, 1998 and 2008. He also tended goal for the 2009 Red Wings team that lost in the Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In 1997, however, Osgood was Mike Vernon’s backup, appearing in just two playoff games that year. The Red Wings turned to Ozzy to help them repeat in 1998, and he did not disappoint posting a 16-6 playoff record with a .918 save percentage. I remember the question marks about this decision to have Osgood in between the pipes for that run. He shut up a lot of critics that year.
A decade later he played 19 playoff games en route to the 2008 Stanley Cup championship, while Hasek played four postseason games. So, in reality Osgood was the starter for two Red Wings Stanley Cup championships and another run to the Final series in 2009. Hasek is credited as the starter in the 2002 Stanley Cup championship (23 games played).
Brodeur, meanwhile, was the New Jersey Devils’ starter in three Stanley Cup championship runs -- 1995, 2000 and 2003. He also helped them to the Final series in 2001 and again in 2012. He was a beast. I think it’s pretty settled that Martin Brodeur is the greatest goalie of all time -- any era. It’s at least difficult to argue against his case. Perhaps Patrick Roy is the only other goalie who could measure up -- Roy was inducted in 2006.
As for Rogie Vachon (a name some of our older Red Wings fans will remember from his time with the “Dead Things” in the late 1970s), he won three Stanley Cups with the Canadiens in 1968, 1969 and 1971. He appeared in just 2 of the 1968 playoff games, then was the starter in 1969. He did not play for the Canadiens during the 1971 playoffs after losing the starting role in Montreal to some kid named Ken Dryden.
Vachon then ended up on terrible Los Angeles Kings teams and the epically bad Red Wings team of the late 70s.
Awards and international play
The Hockey Hall of Fame is not just for NHL players, despite a track record of favoring NHL careers. The Fame is supposed to take into consideration a player’s full hockey career, including international play. Players with stellar NHL and international careers are given extra attention, of course.
Rogie Vachon is most famous as Canada’s goalie in the 1976 Canada Cup. He was named tournament MVP after Canada beat the Soviets, then the Czechs in the final. He’s a Canadian hero, and that alone pushed him into Hall of Fame discussions. He also won the Vezina Trophy (best goalie) in 1968 and played in several NHL All-Star games in the 70s.
Brodeur, obviously, was a shoo-in based on his career stats alone. But he also won two Olympic Gold medals, two World Championship Silver medals, and countless awards including four Vezinas. He also won the Calder Memorial Trophy as top rookie in 1994. The list goes on. He’s an outright, no questions asked, Hall of Famer.
Hasek, well, there was never a goalie like him in the NHL and there never will be again. His wildly unconventional style earned him six Vezinas, two Hart trophies as MVP, and a list of Czechoslovak and Czech awards. He was named best goalie in the 1998 Olympic Games. He one of a list of outright Hall of Famers on that 2002 Cup team.
Osgood, well, is not so decorated. He won a couple Jennings trophies for a low GAA, splitting both with Vernon and Hasek. And this is where things get dicey for Osgood when we’re talking about Hall of Fame worthiness.
What hurts Osgood’s case most
Being the “unflashy” goalie on one of the most dominant NHL teams of the modern era does not help Osgood’s case for a Hall of Fame induction. He was reliable, he was clutch in the playoffs, but he was overlooked when it came to international team selections and awards. Nicklas Lidstrom, one of the best defenseman (perhaps THE best) of all time, ran the show in front of him. That cannot be ignored. His .905 career save percentage is less than ideal, too.
Grant Fuhr had a similar career playing for the high-powered, Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers. He won five Stanley Cups. He also shared the Jennings trophy with Hasek in 1994 when they were with the Buffalo Sabres. And Fuhr won the Vezina in 1988, which really helped his case.
Osgood’s back-to-back runs to the Final series in 2008 and 2009 might actually be his most impressive years. He was a solid veteran presence in net for that team. He posted a career best .930 save percentage through 19 games played in the 2008 Cup run. That’s amazing. Then he did it again in 2009 -- .926 SV% through 23 games played in that postseason.
On the fence?
I think if you take all of this into consideration, you might end up on the fence about Osgood’s Hall of Fame worthiness. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see him inducted. And that’s me speaking as a Red Wings fan, of course. But if you zoom out, take a look at the bigger picture across the league and try not to be a homer like me, I don’t know if it’s easy to put him in the Hall.
Honestly, I’m going back and forth on it. Roberto Luongo, for instance, might get in before Osgood. Is that fair? Luongo is third all-time in wins, has a couple Gold medals for Canada and was a workhorse in the league for nearly two decades on some not-so-great teams in Florida and Vancouver. He finished his career with a .919 save percentage, 9th best all time. However, Luongo never won the Stanley Cup or Vezina Trophy.
Ryan Miller might also get some attention when he is eligible based on his career that included international stardom as USA Hockey’s goalie. His 390 wins are more than enough to cement his remarkable career in the history books. That’s more wins than other U.S. hockey greats including John Vanbiesbrouck (374), Tom Barrasso (369) and Jonathan Quick (334).
Miller, however, can’t get in the HHOF before Osgood, right?
By the way -- there won’t be a 2021 Hockey Hall of Fame “Honoured Membership” class election in 2021 due to the 2020 celebration being postponed until November 2021. We’re skipping a year.
Number retirement perhaps more deserved
There is a case to be made for the Red Wings retiring Osgood’s No. 30 and raising it to the rafters of Little Caesars Arena. Detroit only retires the numbers of players who have been inducted into the Hall, but this seems like a special case if Osgood remains out of the Hall.
He trails only the great Terry Sawchuk in all-time wins as Red Wings goalie -- 317 wins for Osgood to Sawchuk’s 350. And, as mentioned, he has more playoff wins than any other Red Wings goalie, although we do need to consider Sawchuk would have had way more if the league had them playing more playoff games back in the 50s and 60s.
Anyway, I think a lot of fans would appreciate No. 30 being retired. You can’t deny what he did to help those Red Wings teams win the Cup.
But if No. 30 gets retired before No. 91, though, I might have to ... ugh. #Retire91
I have to end with this amazing photo I found on Getty of Osgood, Vernon, Scotty Bowman and Sergei Fedorov accepting awards in 1996 -- yes, that bittersweet season of 62 wins and a playoff loss to Colorado (still crying over it):
As mentioned, Osgood and Vernon split the William M. Jennings Trophy, Bowman won the Jack Adams Award for best coach, and Fedorov won the Selke as the best defensive forward, his second.
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