Chris Osgood Retires

[Update: The media conference call is over and Osgood has made it official. He has retired]

According to various sources (Ansar Khan, Chuck Pleiness, and a WIIM inside source), in a move that comes to a surprise to a lot of people throughout the Wing universe, Chris Osgood will announce his retirement today after 17 seasons in the NHL, 14 in Detroit. From all accounts, the Wings wanted to bring him back, but in the end, he just was not able to give the Red Wings a guarantee that he could play the entire season.

Thus ends the playing career of the man they call Ozzie. When last we saw him, he was backstopping the Wings to a 5-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers, the 401st win of his career.

Follow the jump for a look back at the career of one of the most polarizing figures in Red Wing history.

Truth be told, the writing was on the wall some time ago. He only played in 11 games last season, going 5-3-2 with a 2.77 GAA and .903 SV%. A bad groin ended his season prematurely, and is the reason why he's hanging up the pads now. There's no question that his mobility and reflexes were on the decline the last few years, and he was not the goalie he was when he began his career with the Wings.

Osgood was drafted by the Wings in '91 (I still have a hockey card set with all the draft picks from the first few rounds that year, including Lindros and Osgood). If you weren't a fan of the Red Wings back in the late '80s/early '90s, then it's hard to understand just how long the Wings searched for the goalie that would lead them to success. It seemed like Tim Cheveldae was going to be that guy, but....well, it just didn't work out. Osgood came in as a rookie in 1993-94 and played ok. However, when the playoffs started, he was given the starter's job. I guess Scotty figured that no one else was going to get the job done, so why not give the rookie some much-needed experience. Plus, the Wings were playing the Sharks, who were going to get destroyed, right? Boy were they wrong. The Sharks upset the Wings, and the series winning goal was scored after a giveaway by Osgood behind the net. I can still remember him crying in the lockerroom after the game, knowing that his mistake was a big reason why the Wings were not able to get past an overmatched opponent. It wasn't all his fault, though.

The Wings picked up Mike Vernon the next year, and he and Osgood formed a nice 1-2 duo in the nets for the Detroit. In 1996 they combined to post the lowest GAA in the NHL, earning them a split of the Jennings Trophy. Osgood also led the league in wins that year with 39 and was a Vezina finalist, but once again neither he nor Vernon was enough to get the Wings to the Finals. In 1997 he was the backup for the playoffs as Vernon's Conn Smythe-winning goaltending helped carry the Wings to the Cup they had been sorely trying to win. Vernon departed after that season, and Osgood became the #1 guy. He didn't disappoint, leading the Wings to a second straight Stanley Cup.

The Wings were unable to advance past the second round for the next couple of seasons, and the Wings acquired Dominik Hasek in the summer of 2001. Osgood was left unprotected in the waiver draft and was picked up by the Islanders. He split the next 3 seasons between the Islanders and Blues, and helped both secure playoff spots during his stints there, a feat that should be considered Godly considering how garbage both of those teams have been since. In 2005, after the lockout was over, Ozzie came back home to Detroit and served as the backup to Manny Legace. When the Wings re-signed Hasek, Osgood stayed on as backup, but when Hasek was unable to beat the Predators in 2008, Ozzie stepped in as the starter and proceeded to only lose 4 of the next 18 games he played, posting a ridiculous 1.55 GAA and .930 SV%. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to recapture that level of play consistently, although he was one of the main reasons why the Wings were able to get back to the Finals in 2009, and certainly could not be blamed for the loss to the Penguins.

Ozzie was derided throughout his career by both Wing fans and fans of the rest of the NHL. The argument was always the same: he's not that good, it's just the team in front of him. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that phrase or some variation of it, I would have enough money to buy an Osgood jersey. I have 2 counterarguments to this line of thinking:

First, no goalie in NHL history has not benefitted from having a good team in front of him, specifically a good defense corps. The 3 best goalies I have seen in my lifetime are Brodeur, Roy and Hasek; for anyone to suggest that they won Cups in spite of their teammates instead of because of them is patently absurd. If a goalie could do it on their own, then Hasek would have had 2 Cups with the Sabres long before he became a Red Wing; Brodeur would have more than the 3 he's got, and Roy would have more than 4. While I have no doubts that those guys made their teams better, the reverse is also true: they won Cups because they had good players in front of them. Second, and more specific to the Red Wings, if the team was so good, why haven't more goalies won Cups while they were a Wing? Guys like Curtis Joseph and Manny Legace were good goalies, but neither one of them even got close to winning. Was it their fault? In Legace's case, absolutely it was. But it wasn't Joseph's; he simply ran into a scorching hot opponent in Giguere.

I'm not about to say that Chris Osgood was one of the greatest goalies in NHL history. Hell, there were times in the last 2-3 years that I thought "why doesn't he just retire?" However, there's no question that he made the Wings a better team more often than not, and he was not the liability during his career that many people thought he was. The time to debate his place in history will come later (i.e., does he belong in the HOF and/or have his jersey retired), but today is about celebrating Ozzie. He wasn't the greatest goalie there ever was, but he was ours. Congrats on a hell of a career, Osgood.

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