Now before you get all a-flutter about this, let me state early that this is not a "Chris Osgood should start/Chris Osgood should die of gonorrhea" kind of thing. I will get to my feelings on the matter later. However, in light of some recent arguments that have taken place throughout the interwebz, it's only fitting that I, as a blogger, give you my completely unsolicited and unwanted opinion on this whole Chris Osgood thing.
First, let me ask you one thing: has there ever been a player in Red Wing history that has caused this much controversy or animosity among the fanbase as Ozzie? The only two I can think of off the top of my head are Sergei Fedorov and Todd Bertuzzi. Now, Fedorov was reviled for many things, but one thing no one questioned was his overall talent; the man was a hell of a hockey player. With Bertuzzi, the questions have surrounded what he can do for the Wings along with his obvious history, but I think it was well understood by most people that the Tuzz was only signed to be a secondary offensive player, so our expectations for him have always been lower. But Chris Osgood is the goalie, a position that has plagued the Wings for many years. Some think he's a Hall of Famer; others think he owes his success solely to the team he played on. Me? I'll go wishy-washy on you and say he's somewhere in the middle. Follow me after the jump when we dissect Osgood and his impact on the fans.So before we get into how Ozzie has caused tears and pain, let me explain where I stand. I love Osgood, and respect what he has done for this franchise over the years. I have always maintained that his role has been misunderstood, as he was never the type of goalie to steal a playoff series or stand on his head to win a game for the Wings. What he was able to do was maintain focus over a 60 minute game in which he saw few shots, but he could make a big save when the team needed one. In short, he was the exact opposite of Manny Legace. Now, however, it's getting clearer to me that Osgood's skills have diminished, and he is becoming an increasing liability in the Red Wing net. Case in point Thursday: the third goal. As I said in the recap, that is a save that must be made at that point in time. The Wings are down 2-0 and looked awful. He had let in two "questionable" goals to that point, and the team was reeling. The Wings get a power play and looked poised to start their comeback, and then that goal happens. Shorthanded. From 50 feet out. Unscreened. Unacceptable. I'm not ready to pull the plug on him completely yet and say that he should just up and retire, but I do know that his leash with me is extremely short, and I am done defending him. Basically, I'll point out when he has a good game, and I'll note when he has a bad one, just like I do with Jimmy.
But therein lies the issue: Jimmy Howard gets the benefit of the doubt, but talk to any Red Wing fan and they have an opinion on Osgood, and they'll let you know what it is. There are two very distinct groups: the pro-Ozzies and the anti-Ozzies. Now, this is not to say that one group likes him and the other doesn't; the groups are divided in their belief on whether he should play or not. I don't know that one of them is right and one of them is wrong: that's not the point here. That's the type of thing that is being debated time and time again, both in blogs and on Twitter. What I am getting tired of is the constant back and forth between the fans about this, and being called out for believing one thing or another.
To the pro-Ozzie people, I understand. I know that you feel a connection to him since he has been such a big part of the team in the past, and it's hard to let go of that. We pride ourselves as a fanbase as being like a family, and we don't want to cast off one of our own. You point to his 3 Stanley Cup rings and his stats and say that he's a good goalie. I don't dispute that, but I think you're deluding yourself a little if you believe that he is the goalie he was from 15, 10 or even 2 years ago. Ozzie's reflexes are leaving him, and only the most die-hard supporters can really maintain that he gives us the best shot at winning night in and night out. I get that he's not going to get better without playing time, but the starts he has gotten over the last year and a bit have shown that he is not as good as he was. It's time to take the blinders off and accept that.
To the anti-Ozzie crowd, here's a question: what's your alternative? Do you want to bury Osgood in the minors and bring up Joey MacDonald? Remember, Osgood's on a 35+ contract, so there is no getting that cap hit off the books. However, putting him in the minors would give us a whole $100K off of Ozzie's salary, making Joey Mac a $1.8M backup with less experience and skills than Osgood. Or we could force Osgood to retire, thereby making Joey Mac a $1.9M backup since again, we have to pay Ozzie his salary. Maybe we trade him? To who? Who's going to take a washed-up backup goalie that can't make it on the Red Wings? Face it; we're stuck with him this year, so all the pouting, bitching and moaning won't change that one bit. Suck it up and deal with it. Just as the pro-Ozzies have to accept that his skills may be in decline, you need to understand that there is still the possibility he could revert to 2008 playoffs Osgood; we can't dismiss him entirely just yet . Also, don't bring up how you were right about Ozzie and knew the team was going to lose, especially to the opposition. No one gives a crap, and all it does is make you come across as a giant asshole (as a side note, the opposite is true: declaring yourself to be "right" after a win is just as annoying. No one "knows" what's going to happen, whether it be a specific play or in the game itself). Shut the hell up and cheer for the "team", even if you believe that one of the players is not cutting it. It's like sitting on the deck of the Titanic saying "I knew the ship was going to sink"; whether you knew it or not, you're still about to drown.
Now, let's get to the heart of the matter: fan on fan violence. I don't mean this literally, although I question whether fisticuffs would occur if some people got together in person. I don't care if you are pro-Ozzie or anti-Ozzie, let's remember that we are all on the same side here: we all want the Red Wings to be better. Criticizing a player, or a coach, manager, move, or trade for that matter, does not make you a bad fan. If anything, it shows your desire for the team to win, and your passion since you are not blindly accepting everything that is happening. Do you think the fans in Toronto have enjoyed seeing all the idiot moves their team has made recently? Are they bad fans for voicing their displeasure? I say "no" on both counts. Some people are more critical than others, but in so doing, that does not make them lesser or worse fans. Stop looking at everything as being so black and white, because brothers and sisters, that is not how the world works.
The other thing I can't stand? When fans disagree, and one is inevitably told that they are not a true "fan" of the team, or it is suggested that they switch allegiances. Give me a break. I don't know when this happened, but all of a sudden it seems like there are some sort of "standards" that make one a Red Wing fan, and to not abide by these means one is not a "fan". Bullshit. For example, if I say that I think Tomas Holmstrom seems to be on the decline and that it's time to seriously start looking for his replacement, I don't want anyone telling me that I am not a "fan"; I also don't want to be told I need to go cheer for another team if I say that Mike Modano was a terrible signing; I am merely ensuring that the team continues to enjoy the level of excellence they have enjoyed for the last 20 years. I also don't like to be told that criticism = failure to support the team. Just because I say that "Player X" is not getting the job done and needs to be gone does not mean that I don't support the team. I don't tell people how to cheer for the Wings, and I don't want people to tell me how to either. We all show our support in different ways, and I get a little tired of people believing they are the arbiters on who is a "good" fan or not. Think about your own family: do you agree with them 100% of the time? When you do disagree, do you tell them "you're not a true member of this family" or "why don't you go be a part of the Hendersons"? I'm guessing probably not. If you feel the need to criticize the way a person cheers for the team, take a look in the mirror first and ensure that you haven't said or done anything that makes you look like less than a "stellar" fan; none of us are perfect, but since we're all Red Wing fans, we're pretty darn close.