Hooked On Hockey Magazine

Frozen Memories – You Can Call Me Mr. Underappreciated

Today in our favorite memories segment, I’ll recount the career of one of my favorite players, a player that was often unappreciated during his career.

Goalie A:

Regular Season Stats: 1029 GP, 551 wins, a .535  winning %, 2.54 GAA, .910 SV%, 66 shutouts

Playoff Stats: 247 GP, 151 wins, .611 winning %, 2.30 GAA, .918 SV%, 23 shutouts, 4 Stanley Cups,

Best Regular Season Performance:  32-23-8, 1.94 GAA, .925 SV%, 9 shutouts

Best Playoff Performance: 16-7, 1.70 GAA, .934 SV%, 4 shutouts, won Stanley Cup

Goalie B:

Regular Season Stats: 963 GP, 484 wins, a .503 winning %, 2.50 GAA, .906 SV%, 76 shutouts

Playoff Stats: 161 GP, 88 wins, .547 winning %, 2.17 GAA, .920 SV%, 14 shutouts, 1 Stanley Cup

Best Regular Season Performance: 37-12-10, 1.88 GAA, .916 SV%, 9 shutouts

Best Playoff Performance: 16-7, 1.67 GAA, .930 SV%, 3 shutouts, won Stanley Cup

Goalie C:

Regular Season Stats: 744 GP, 401 wins, a .539 winning %, 2.49 GAA, .905 SV%, 50 shutouts

Playoff Stats: 129 GP, 74 wins, .574 winning%, 2.09 GAA, .916 SV%, 15 shutouts, 3 Stanley Cups

Best Regular Season Performance: 39-6-5, 2.17 GAA, .911 SV%, 5 shutouts

Best Playoff Performance: 14-4, 1.55 GAA, .930 SV%, 3 shutouts, won Stanley Cup

 

Goaltender’s A and B are the last two goaltenders inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Patrick Roy (A) and Ed Belfour (B). If there is any justice in the world, Goaltender C will soon join them there. Goaltender C is Chris Osgood. What you can take away from those stats are that Osgood was comparable to them during the regular season, having the 2nd best winning percentage, and the best GAA. In the playoffs, Ozzie has the best winning percentage of the three (it’s also 4th best all time), to go along with the best GAA (7th best all time), the 2nd most shutouts, and he has 3 Stanley Cup Rings. Also, of the three, you could argue that Osgood’s best playoff performance (the 2008 playoffs) was the best of the three as he had the best GAA, the best SV%, had 3 shutouts, and won the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, I think too many people will say that he was the product of the Wings system and that he always had talent playing in front of them and that he never needed to be the star.

Well, I chose Belfour and Roy to compare in this scenario because throughout the 90’s, especially the late 90’s, the Wings, Avs, and Stars were the three Western Conference Powers. Between 1994-1995 and 2001-2002, either Detroit, Colorado, or Dallas represented the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. So you can’t make the argument that Osgood was a product of the system as all three of these goalies were products of their systems. I hope the Hockey Hall of Fame recognizes that and they induct him when he becomes eligible. But until then, I’ll tell the story of the man known as “Ozzie’

The story of Chris Osgood starts off badly. As a rookie in 1993-1994, Ozzie managed to steal the starting gig from Bob Essensa and he became the starting goaltender for the playoffs. That is an impressive achievement by itself for a rookie goaltender. However, people only remember one thing about that season. In Game 7 against the #8 seed Sharks, with the game tied 3-3 late in the 3rd, Osgood misplayed a puck up the boards. It fell right on the stick of Sharks forward Jamie Baker, who shot it into the open net, and the Sharks became the first #8 seed to defeat a #1 seed in the playoffs. After that egregious mistake, the Wings decided that Osgood was not ready to handle the starting job and acquired veteran Mike Vernon that offseason. Vernon took control in 1994-1995, leading the Wings to the Stanley Cup Finals, only to fall short to the underdog Devils. 1995-1996 saw Osgood post the best regular season of his career, going 39-6-5 while helping the Wings to an NHL record 62 wins. In the 1995-1996, the Wings went into the playoffs with a timeshare, before ultimately handing Ozzie the reigns midway through the 2nd round. The Wings were eventually bounced in the Conference Finals by the Avs, prompting the Wings to give Mike Vernon a much heavier workload during the 1996-1997 season. While Ozzie appeared in 47 games during the 96-97 season, he only appeared in 2 playoff games as the Wings let Vernon run the show, and he turned in a Conn Smythe performance, leading the Wings to the Stanley Cup.

Just when it seemed like Ozzie was never going to get his chance, the Wings traded Vernon 2 months after he led them to the Stanley Cup, effectively making Chris Osgood the unquestioned starter. Osgood responded with a solid regular season, going 33-20-11, with a 2.21 GAA, and a .913 SV%, and a huge fight with Patrick Roy. I think that fight with Patrick Roy was what really sold the Wings fans on Ozzie. After 2 years of playoff disappointments, Ozzie, being just 5’10” 180, going toe-to-toe with Patrick Roy, well the fans just loved that. However, Ozzie knew that his success would be measured upon whether or not he won the Stanley Cup. That spring, with the full support of Wings management, Ozzie turned in a stellar playoffs, going 16-6 with a 2.12 GAA, a .918 SV%, but most importantly, another Stanley Cup.

Osgood posted strong numbers the next 3 years, going a combined 89-58-16. However, in Detroit, success is only measured in playoff wins, and the next three years saw Ozzie advance past the 1st round just once. With fans getting impatient in the summer of 2001, Wings GM Ken Holland pulled the trigger on a deal to bring in Dominik Hasek, one of the most dominant goaltenders of his generation. People in Detroit had a “what have you done for me lately” attitude and that cost Osgood. After several unsuccessful attempts to trade Osgood, the Wings put him on the waiver-wire, where he was claimed by the New York Islanders.

How humiliating for Chris Osgood. As a Wing, he had gone 221-110-46 in the regular season, 38-25 in the playoffs, and helped lead the Wings to a Stanley Cup. In return for all of that, he gets placed on the waiver wire, where he is picked up by the New York Islanders, a team that hadn’t made the playoffs since 1993-1994. Well what does Ozzie do? All he does is win, and this is what people forget. Osgood went 32-25-6 with a 2.50 GAA, and .910 SV%, 4 shutouts, and took the Islanders to the playoffs as the 5th seed in the East. That team had no business being in the playoffs. Osgood fought valiantly in the playoffs, posting a 2.60 GAA and a .912 SV%, but the Isles fell in 7 games to the Leafs (this is kind of funny to think about in present day – Leafs over Isles…in the playoffs). In the 2002-2003 season, Ozzie got thrust right back into a timeshare, this time with Garth Snow and Rick DiPietro. And again, after leading the Isles to their first playoff birth in almost 10 years, what did Osgood get? He was traded at the trade deadline to the St. Louis Blues. Ozzie immediately stepped in and served as the starter for the Blues in the playoffs, but again, his team fell in 7 games to the Vancouver Canucks. In the 2003-2004 season, Osgood was given the starting job and he did not disappoint, going 31-25-8 with a 2.24 GAA and a .910 SV%. He again took the Blues back to the playoffs where they fell to the Sharks in 5 games.

I still believe that one of the most overlooked achievements of Ozzie’s career was his stint away from Detroit. He took an Islanders team that had not made the playoffs in 7 years and got them back there. The Islanders. In the playoffs. That 7 game showing in the playoffs is the longest the Islanders have remained in the playoffs since 1992-1993. He posted a 49-39-10 record with the Islanders, which on the surface does not look that impressive until you remember that these are the New York Islanders we’re talking about.

After the lockout, Osgood rejoined Detroit, the team that had sent him packing after such an impressive start to his career. However, Osgood initially struggled with injury problems, and was unable to fully assume the starting role in the 2005-2006 season. After spending the offseason getting healthy and ready to resume his #1 role, what was Osgood rewarded with? Well the Wings decided to bring the 41-year old Dominik Hasek back! Osgood broke his hand in practice, and when he returned, he assumed his role as backup, getting to play in just 21 games that year. In 2007-2008, Osgood came back determined to earn at least a time share and he did just that. For Osgood, luck was finally on his side as this time it was Hasek that went down with an injury very early in the season.

Detroit Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood hoists the Stanley Cup after beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in Game 6 of the NHL finals in Pittsburgh, in this June 4, 2008, file photo.
(ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Osgood showcased his talents, winning his first 8 starts of the season without giving up more than 2 goals in any of the game, and posting a 20-3-2 record at the All Star Break with a 2.22 GAA and a .925 SV%. That earned him an All Star appearance. Again, how was Osgood treated? The timeshare was resumed as soon as Hasek returned to health fully. So in 2006-2007, when Osgood got hurt and returned, he was forced to return as the backup. In 2007-2008, when Hasek gets hurt and Osgood posts All Star numbers, the timeshare is resumed. I just don’t get it sometimes. To do even more disservice to Osgood, when the regular season finished, Hasek was named the starter for the playoffs. Osgood went 27-9-4 with a 2.09 GAA, a .914 SV%, and 4 shutouts. Hasek on the other hand went 27-10-3 with a 2.14 GAA, a .902 SV%, and 5 shutouts. Osgood had outplayed Hasek throughout the season, but for some reason, the Wings chose to go with Hasek in the playoffs. However, just 4 games in to their first round matchup with the #8 Predators, the Wings found themselves in a 2-2 series and Hasek had a 2.91 GAA and a .888 SV%. The Wings turned to Osgood in Game 5, and he never looked back. Osgood went 14-4 the rest of the way, with an insane 1.55 GAA and a .930 SV%, leading the Wings to another Stanley Cup Championship.

Most of the highlights for Osgood start to fade at this point. In 2008-2009, he led the Wings back to the Stanley Cup Finals, coming up 1 game short. Had the Wings won the Cup, many felt that Osgood would have won the Conn Smythe, thanks to his 2.01 GAA and .926 SV%. In 2010-2011, Osgood recorded his 400th win against the Avs (as it should be), one of only 10 goaltenders to achieve that. He earned that win, stopping 46 shots. After that achievement, a few players in the NHL put together a video to congratulate Ozzie on his accomplishment. Osgood retired after the season, with nothing left to prove. This man was under-appreciated his entire career, never got the recognition he deserved, but was never one to complain. He was a true professional who just did his job, and did it as well as can be expected. Chris Osgood deserves a place in the Hall of Fame, nothing more needs to be said.

Prashanth Iyer

Prashanth is a third year doctor of pharmacy student at the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy in Chapel Hill, NC. Prashanth is studying to be an infectious disease pharmacist, but in his spare time, he watches any hockey game he can catch. He was born and raised just outside Detroit, Michigan and hence is a big Red Wings fan. He is always willing to hear any and all debates pertaining to his articles, so feel free to contact him.
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