A look at what I consider baseless reasons to exclude Chris Osgood from possible consideration for the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Chris Osgood’s recent retirement announcement has sparked debate over his worthiness as a future candidate for the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Hockey scribes like ESPN’s Scott Burnside and “Puck Daddy” Greg Wyshynski have made convincing cases why Osgood could be an inductee one day, while the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle and Justin Bourne of THN.com and USA Today have made compelling arguments against Osgood’s inclusion.
I side with Burnside and Wyshynski, but while I disagree with Mirtle and Bourne, I also respect their opinions. I feel he’s deserving of induction, though he probably will have to wait several years, as there will be others more deserving of the honour.
My opinion isn’t based on being a fan of Osgood or of the Red Wings, as I’m neither, but simply because I feel his accomplishments will eventually merit his inclusion.
The case for and against Osgood entering the Hockey Hall of Fame makes for a good debate amongst hockey pundits, bloggers and fans.
It’s also, unfortunately, generated some disrespectful comments toward Osgood’s achievements.
For example, it’s been suggested Osgood isn’t worthy because he benefited from playing for great teams with the Detroit Red Wings over most of his career.
Critics of those goalies have claimed they weren’t as great as they seemed because of the teams they were on. Dryden played for the Montreal Canadiens dynasty of the late 1970s, Smith for the Islanders dynasty of the early 1980s, and Fuhr for the great Oilers teams of the mid-to-late 1980s.
Of course, it’s ridiculous to compare Osgood to those greats, let alone dismiss their performances as the result of playing for great teams. It’s equally ridiculous to use the same argument to belittle their careers, including Osgood’s.
Ah, but those three all won individual awards, plus their stats put them amongst the elite netminders of their day. Osgood’s critics point out he never won an individual award, and for most of his career, his regular season stats weren’t amongst the elite.
Following that “logic”, Boston Bruins goalie Gerry Cheevers shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. After all, he played on a great Bruins team, never won an individual award, and his stats often weren’t amongst the elite of his day.
Of course, no one is knocking Cheevers’ accomplishment, nor should they, but if we’re going to judge Osgood by the yardstick of awards and statistical placement, then “Cheesy” is no more deserving than “Ozzie”.
Osgood’s critics also point out he wasn’t capable of winning championships outside of Detroit. If so, that’s yet another reason why Fuhr shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame since, after all, he didn’t win anything after he left a great team.
Sure, some were goaltending innovators as well as multiple award-winners, but again, if we’re going to make the case Osgood doesn’t belong in the Hall because he couldn’t win championships after he left a great team, then the aforementioned should also be judged accordingly, regardless of their awards or innovations.
That’s a stupid suggestion, of course, and is no less stupid using it as an arguing point against Osgood’s possible Hall of Fame eligibility.
Interestingly, Osgood’s playoff statistics, which Scott Burnside noted ranked “Ozzie” among the best playoff goalies in NHL history, have also been called into question. One comment I recently read wondered what all the fuss was about his Osgood’s playoff record, pointing out how many times he failed to carry teams beyond the first or second round.
Never mind the fact he backstopped the Red Wings to three Cup Finals and two championships, while posting a solid playoff record (74-49, 2.09 GAA, .919 SP, 15 shutouts). No, he’s is supposedly lousy because, over the course of his 17-year NHL career, he didn’t carry his teams to more Finals appearances and championships.
By that standard, Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur must be horrible playoff netminders. After all, in his 19 NHL seasons, Roy “only” carried five teams to the Cup Finals, resulting in four championships, while Brodeur, in his 18 seasons, “only” backstopped the Devils to four Finals appearances and three Cups.
Winning the Stanley Cup is perhaps the most difficult achievement in team sports, especially for a goaltender. It takes superb talent and cool nerves to play the most important, pressure-filled position in the game (which inexplicably at times gets taken for granted by people in the sport who should know better), let alone backstop a team to a championship.
To suggest any plug could have been in goal for the Red Wings in ’98 and ’08 and they still would’ve won the Cup is not only disrespectful to Osgood, it’s also a very stupid opinion.
Osgood’s 401 career victories are also dismissed by some critics, who claim goaltending victories are more of a team stat and therefore shouldn’t be taken into consideration for Hall of Fame induction.
That of course runs counter to the NHL maintaining won-loss records for goalie, and using those records as a factor in determining selection of a goaltender into the Hall of Fame.
If we go by that opinion, the regular season and single season wins records for future HHOF inductee Brodeur shouldn’t count as an achievement.
For that matter, neither should his shutout record, as it could also be considered a “team stat”.
That of course demeans the achievements of Brodeur, as well as those of greats like Terry Sawchuk , Bernie Parent, and Roy, whose respective records for career shutouts, single season wins and career regular season wins were broken by him.
Of course, Brodeur is no stranger to having his accomplishments belittled, but that’s a topic for another day.
As for Roy, his record for career playoff victories also shouldn’t count, and therefore shouldn’t have been cited as part of his induction into the HHOF.
It could also be suggested Roy’s first two Cup championship runs, as well as his first two Conn Smythe trophies, came against inferior playoff opposition, since all of the “true” Cup contenders in 1986 and 1993 had been eliminated earlier in the playoff rounds by other clubs. Therefore, Roy wasn’t “great” in those years, just lucky.
The “beneficiary of a great team” theory could also apply to Roy, as he won his last two Stanley Cups, and his record-setting third Smythe trophy, playing for the Colorado Avalanche from 1995-96 to 2002-03.
Such claims however are absurd, and only belittle Roy’s achievements, just like those which dismiss Osgood’s 401 career victories.
Osgood’s critics also point to that long Al MacInnis slapshot he missed against the St. Louis Blues in the 1998 playoffs as substantiation he wasn’t a particularly good goalie.
Of course Osgood bounced back and the Wings won the series, marching on to their ’98 Cup championship, but his critics just won’t let that one go.
If giving up a bad goal is reason to ban Osgood from the Hall, then what about Roy’s “statue of liberty” blunder in Game Six of the 2002 Western Conference Final? The Avs held a 3-2 series lead up until that moment, which became a series turning point, as the Wings won the next two games to clinch the series, driving Roy from the net in the crucial Game 7 with a crushing 7-0 victory.
Or how about Brodeur’s stick blunder in Game Three of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final against the Anaheim then-Mighty Ducks?
Heck, I’ve heard some of Fuhr’s critics blaming him for Steve Smith’s own-goal blunder in 1986, claiming if Fuhr had paid more attention and “hugged the post”, Smith’s errant pass would’ve have hit him, or if it did, it would’ve deflected off his pad harmlessly away.
Elite goalies aren’t immune from mistakes. If one mistake in a playoff game, which ultimately didn’t derail Detroit’s march to the 1998 Stanley Cup Final, is to be a factor in Osgood’s unworthiness for the Hall of Game, then Roy, Fuhr, and every other great goaltender enshrined in the Hall now, and in the future, don’t deserve to be there.
A dumb suggestion? Of course! No dumber however than citing the MacInnis goal as a reason for denying Osgood’s possible induction into the Hall.
Then there are those who believe Osgood shouldn’t be inducted because the HHOF should be only for the game’s true elite players, claiming there are far too many lesser candidates already enshrined, and Osgood’s induction would serve merely to further cheapen the Hall.
It’s a fair point. There are some players in the Hockey Hall of Fame whose accomplishments pale in comparison to others, and the induction committee has in recent years been questioned for the selection of some lesser lights (Dick Duff, Bob Pulford, Clark Gillies, Bernie Federko) as well as their puzzling, long-standing omission of deserving candidates (Rogatien Vachon, Butch Goring).
Despite the criticism heaped upon the HHOF induction committee, they’re never going to please everyone with their decisions. While I might question the inclusion of Duff, Pulford, Gillies and Federko, there are undoubtedly others who’ll defend their worthiness.
It is, after all, a selective process, and for every obvious first ballot candidate (Gretzky, Lemieux, Orr, Howe, Richard), there will be some whose selection will be questioned. It wouldn’t be fair to exclude Osgood, who won over 400 career games, two Stanley Cups and has impressive playoff statistics, merely to try to prove a point.
It’s fine to debate the merits of a player for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, but it isn’t fair, or right, to diminish their career achievements.
In Osgood’s case, there also appears to be an element of malice which is usually absent in debates about other players.
I’m not sure why that is. Osgood was never brash, overbearing, or cocky. He never demeaned opponents, and wasn’t a braggart or a jerk. By most accounts, he was a quiet, hard-working player who was well-liked by teammates, and so highly thought of by Red Wings management that he’s stepping into a front office job with the club.
Whatever the reason, it’s an element which is disturbing and has no place in the debate over Osgood’s qualifications for the Hall of Fame.
Comparing Chris Osgood’s career to those of greater goalies to argue against his eligibility for the Hall of Fame is one thing. Pissing on his accomplishments however doesn’t validate the point.