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Trending Topics: The case against Chris Osgood’s Hall of Fame candidacy

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Trending Topics is a column that looks at the week in hockey according to Twitter. If you're only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear internet instead?

Here's a controversial opinion for you: Gary Bettman is the best commissioner in NHL history.

Don't believe me? The NHL is getting record ratings. The NHL is making more money than ever before. The NHL is popular in more markets than ever before. The NHL has its best TV deal of all-time.

That's all you have to know to see that Gary Bettman is the greatest. A commissioner's job is to help the league grow and make money. It has done so under Bettman.

Oh, what's that? You don't agree? Well the numbers don't lie.

Well, OK, that's probably not true, in reality.

But if you believe Chris Osgood belongs within a five-mile radius of the Hockey Hall of Fame, you are arguing using the same logic. Or are a Red Wings fan. Or, more likely, an idiot. None of those three are mutually exclusive.

Don't get me wrong, though. I firmly believe Osgood will end up in the Hall of Fame. But that doesn't mean he should be.

People who believe otherwise have contorted themselves in very strange ways to make the pro-Hall argument, including but not limited to things like his win total, the number of Stanley Cups he has won, and, most hilariously, the fact that he is "clutch" and "wins when it counts." Each argument is more specious than the last for different reasons.

Let's start at the only semi-credible pro-Hall argument for Chris Osgood: his 401 wins. That total is impressive, no doubt. It's 10th-best in the league ever. And there have a been a lot of goalies who never came close to that number. Ken Dryden, they say, only had 258.

And what that conveniently ignores is the fact that goaltenders today play more games than ever, and many of the league's all-time great goalies never played close to the number of games Osgood did. I think we can pretty safely say there are a large, large number of goalies in NHL history better than Chris Osgood. (Plus he could have played more if he was good enough to have won and hung on to a few more starting jobs outright, or at all.)

Many of those goalies, by the by, did not play in an era where a goalie could record a win in the shootout, which Osgood did 10 times. Of those ahead of him on the all-time wins chart, only three (Brodeur, Joseph and Belfour) played in the shootout era, and none of them exactly needed the help to climb the plateau people need to validate Osgood's claim to the Hall. Having 391 wins just doesn't sound as nice, though, does it?

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"But," wrong people say, "He's a winner." Sure he is. That's fair enough. The problem is that he never won as well as every other goaltender Detroit has used when Osgood was on the team. The Wings' win percentage with Osgood behind them was a very respectable .629. The Wings' win percentage when he was not? A more respectable .640. So the fact of the matter is that he actually made the Red Wings worse. That's how math works.

Of course, the reason he made the Red Wings worse is that he is a very average NHL goaltender. As Twitterer Ryan Batty points out, the league-wide save percentage during Chris Osgood's 17 years in the NHL was .9059. Chris Osgood's career save percentage was .9051. Even though that's slightly worse than average (again, math), let's call it even. So if he were to make the Hall of Fame, they would literally be letting an average goalie for his era go through. Plus, as Batty once again points out, the combined GAA of other goaltenders on his various teams was 2.47. Osgood's was 2.49. May not sound like a big difference, but over a season and a career it adds up to one thing: abundant evidence that Chris Osgood was worse than half his peers.

(Let's also ignore the fact that during his time with Detroit, he turned in those repeatedly mediocre stats with seven-time Norris winner Nicklas Lidstrom playing in front of him, and a Red Wing took home the Selke seven times. Mike Peca also took one home during his first season on Long Island. Ssshh, quiet.)

"I knew how I did my job on a great team," Osgood said during his retirement conference call. We do too: worse than average.

But hey, he won three Cups. Validation enough. Only WINNERS win multiple Cups. Ask Rogie Vachon. Wait, did Rogie Vachon once lose his starting job to Manny Legace and Garth Snow? I forget.

Well jeez, when Osgood was on the team, they won three Stanley Cups in 14 seasons, only one of which involved him watching them win from off the ice like any other fan. So OK, two Stanley Cups in 13 seasons. That's 15 percent of the time (three in 14 is 21 percent). You definitely take that. But hey, hmm, looks like in the three seasons he wasn't on the Wings they won one too. Can't remember which number is biggest: 15 or 21 or 33.

(Weak argument there? Sure. I'll admit it. It's an argument exactly as weak as, "He should get in because he has three Cups." Darren McCarty and Kris Draper have four. Now what?)

But oh those playoff stats: He's eighth in career playoff wins (and only 11th in losses)! He's 15th all-time in postseason GAA! He's 11th in playoff save percentage!

Both of the latter two are better than his regular-season numbers, Ozzie backers point out.

How terribly clutch. How mortifyingly win-y. Let's disregard his .603 career winning percentage in the regular season being appreciably better than his .574 postseason win percentage. Much more convenient that way.

Ken Holland infamously talked about his mental toughness: how strong you have to be to rebound from giving up an overtime goal from center ice in the playoffs to earn a shutout the next night. Wow! Talk about fortitude (and ignore the fact that he gave up a goal from center ice. In overtime. In the playoffs)! What he failed to mention, of course, is that at the time, the Wings were up 3-1 in the series and went on to win 4-2.

It's pretty easy to gut out wins when your team is constantly jumping out to 3-0 and 3-1 series leads. But what about when The Chips Are Down? We're talkin' when his team needed him most: an elimination games, a Game 7.

Well, it's funny. All-around good dude Cam Charron points out that Osgood's record in Game 7s is a paltry 2-4 in six games, and his save percentage in those is just .901.

Worse, as Jibblescribbits notes, Osgood played in just 13 elimination games during his 17-season career (and if that doesn't speak strongly to the quality of Osgood's teams, nothing does). He won just five of them. Five. Of 13. His save percentage in those games? Only .893. Don't you think any Red Wings goalie in the last 17 seasons would have done better than that?

To be perfectly frank, Osgood didn't rise to the occasion when his team needed him most. By nearly any metric, he shrank from it.

And Holland says it's tough playing on great teams? It's not. You only need to see how much better other goalies did than him on the same teams. Let's think of it this way: If Osgood hadn't played behind literally the best team of the last 17 years or so, where would his career statistics be? He wouldn't have any Cups, he sure as hell wouldn't have 401 wins and he probably would have been out of the league faster than you can say "Hannu Toivonen."

Look, it's fine that Ken Holland and Red Wings fanboys think this is a Hall of Fame career. It's not one, but it's fine for them to think that. In fact, it's expected.

But for media members who are supposed to view the game objectively (I'm not one of those, obviously), to call this anything like a Hall of Fame-worthy career is blithering idiocy to the point of being embarrassing. It's buying a convenient line of talk without even thinking to give it anything more than a cursory glance. Make no mistake: Osgood is just about as statistically average as a goalie of his era can possibly be. And no one who's statistically average deserves this much celebration.

All that having been said, I must acknowledge again that Chris Osgood will definitely make the Hockey Hall of Fame. But it's only because they let in Grant Fuhr.

That one really opened the floodgates.

Pearls of Bizdom

We all know that there isn't a better Twitter account out there than that of Paul Bissonnette. So why not find his best bit of advice on love, life and lappers from the last week?

 

BizNasty on the second-best one-T in the league: "I think a good question for Steve Stamkos would be, 'how long did it take you to perfect the Paul Bissonnette knee drop?'"

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