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Off-Day Topic: The Hall of Fame Debate - Chris Osgood

Since Chris Osgood won his 400th game in the NHL on Monday with a fantastic 46-save performance over the Colorado Avalanche, plenty of sites have dedicated posts to his credentials and whether they make him worthy of the Hockey Hall of Fame.  Osgood is one of only ten goaltenders in the entirety of NHL history to win 400 games.  Every other goaltender who has both won 400 games and has been retired the requisite three years has made it into the Hall.  Of three others (Brodeur, Belfour, Joseph) two are definite locks and the third (Joseph) seems likely to make it.

Of course, there are two sides to this story and nobody is quite convinced that Osgood is a lock, so the debate rages on.  On one side, you have guys like Scott Burnside with ESPN who calls his induction a "no-brainer" with quotes like this:

When you take a look at the other nine netminders who have hit the 400-win mark, six are already in the Hockey Hall of Fame (Patrick Roy, Terry Sawchuk, Jacques Plante, Tony Esposito, Glenn Hall and Grant Fuhr). Martin Brodeur, the winningest goaltender of all time, is a lock, while Ed Belfour is considered a good Hall bet next year in his first year of eligibility. Curtis Joseph is fourth all-time with 454 wins but never won a Cup.

That leaves Osgood, who has 400 wins and owns three Stanley Cup rings. In the spring of 2009, he was one win from a fourth when the Pittsburgh Penguins edged the Wings 2-1 in Game 7 in Detroit.

He has never been as flashy or flamboyant as many of those in the 400 club, but how does not smashing up television sets in coaches' offices, etc., stand as a mark against a person?

Meanwhile, on the other side, you have writers like Mike Rogers over at Behind the Net, who despite being a Wings fan, is not much a fan of Osgood (and is willing to take off-handed shots at Kirk Maltby while he's at it just to PROVE that he's not biased).  Rogers uses Osgood's career save percentage plotted against the league average to show a decline in his numbers, which haven't been above-average since the turn of the century.  He also uses a link to an interesting article showing that Osgood's career pay is strong evidence that he's never been considered financially important enough to be considered one of the best, which helps disqualify him from the hall.  Rogers says this:

However, the most damning evidence for the Red Wings fans who insist on Osgood's induction into the HOF is what happened when he hit the open market. Wouldn't teams fall all over themselves to sign a future HOFer to stabilize their team in net? Sure they would, if Osgood were one and NHL teams know this and thus he wasn't paid like an elite NHL goalie.

The Contrarian Goaltender has a great post about "adjusted" salaries/career earnings for goalies over the last 20 years or so. Osgood fell between Bill Ranford and Evgeni Nabakov. If Osgood is so good, shouldn't he have gotten the high salaries that Hasek, Roy, Belfour, Brodeur, et al. received?

Well, we decided it was an off-day and there isn't much else to do but pointlessly argue, so we've got our own opinions to share and hope you'll share yours in the comments.  Follow us after the jump.

Graham Says:

For me, the question of whether Chris Osgood is a Hall of Famer is still debatable, but only because his career is not over yet. There is still time for him to do something (win another Cup as a starter, win a Conn Smythe, come back next year and win a Vezina) that would make him a shoo-in. But if you're putting a gun to my head (put it away!) I'll say that I lean towards the "he should be in" side. He's got the numbers, including the biggest and sexiest one of them all: 400 wins. I understand the rest of his regular season numbers are average, but his post-season stats are pretty good: 15th all-time in save percentage, a 2.09 GAA (14th all time) and 74 wins. Keep in mind that his GAA is better than Curtis Joseph, Ed Belfour and even Patrick Roy (and don't think for a second that I believe Ozzie is as good as Roy was; I may be a Wing fan, but I'm not that big an idiot homer). What will always work against Ozzie is the fact that he played for a really good team. To me, that's bunk, because every great goalie that has enjoyed success, especially in the playoffs, has been a part of a great set of players. Roy had Carbonneau, Gainey, Sakic, and Forsberg; Brodeur had Stevens, Niedermayer and Daneyko. Belfour didn't win a Cup until he got to Dallas and had Modano, Hull and others in front of him. Was Osgood helped by the Yzerman, Lidstrom and Shanahan? Absolutely. But that doesn't change the fact that he was a part of the team that won Cups, including in 2008 when he took over for Hasek (who is regarded as one of the best goalies of the last 30 years) and lost only 4 games in the playoffs.

I get that people only believe he won 400 games because he was on the Wings. But if it's so easy to do, then why haven't more than 10 people ever done it? And if Osgood was as bad as people believe he was, then why would the Wings keep him on the team all these years when they could just plug in some schmuck making league minimum because they were stacked? It's the same reason that Bob Essensa, Curtis Joseph, Manny Legace, and Dominik Hasek in 2007 and 2008 never won Cups for the Wings: they were not good enough at the right times.  This article points out that Osgood let in a long goal in each of the first three rounds in 1998; what it fails to mention is that he came back and won each game immediately after that, including pitching a shutout against Dallas to send the Wings to the Finals where he gave up 7 goals in 4 games. Osgood, love him or hate him, has routinely come up with big saves at big times, and I can't remember a series where the Wings lost "because" of him alone. He'll never be considered an elite goalie, but I think he's a lot better than people give him credit for, and I think that he deserves to be recognized for his career, which has been pretty darn good when you look at his contemporaries.

Casey Says:

Like Graham said, Osgood's career isn't over yet so it's still a bit of a tough question to address. I do not think individual awards constitute a Hall of Fame career but individual accomplishments (such as the 400 wins, 3 Stanley Cups) do. Sure, you can make the argument that Osgood wasn't the best of his generation but Brodeur and Roy are some pretty tough standards to surpass.

The main problem I have with Osgood not getting into the Hockey Hall of Fame is this: it sets a precedent for any inductees after that is very difficult to achieve. You leave Osgood out and then you have to start really cutting down the list to the absolute elites in the game and it's not the proper way to honor those players.

Do I think he'll get in on the first ballot? Nope. But I think he should be in there eventually and who is anyone to point a finger and say he's not deserving after a career like that?

J.J. Says:

I've bounced back and forth a few times on this because of personal feelings regarding Osgood's attitude over the years, but the last few days have made me reflect on the accomplishment.  The bottom line is that, if I take Osgood the person out of the equation and look solely at what his career tells me, we've got a goaltender who has done all the necessary work to earn a spot in the hall. Yes, he's won a lot of games thanks to the skill of the guys in front of him and, yes, I've been pissed at him several times over the last couple of seasons for what seemed like a bad attitude, but there's simply something to be said about the longevity of the whole thing.

Perhaps Mike Rogers and the Contrarian Goaltender are right.  Perhaps Osgood's career pay is proof that the GMs know their stuff better than the common fans and that their actions in paying Osgood what they've paid over the years has been a strong message that nobody has really considered him to be one of the elites.  The question then is how many afterthoughts have won their teams two Stanley Cups?  How many merely "serviceable" NHL goaltenders have put up career numbers in the playoffs like Chris Osgood has?  Ultimately, I'm not heartbroken if Osgood doesn't make the Hall.  I think it would be a continued travesty that there simply aren't more goalies in, but Ozzie getting passed over on the ballots year after year isn't going to shake my faith in hockey.  Ultimately, if Osgood gets in, he wouldn't be among the five best goalies in the Hall.  But, he also wouldn't be among the five worst.  That would be pretty fitting, considering that's where he's been his entire career.

Let us know what you think in the comments.