Chris Osgood and the Hockey Hall of Fame conundrum

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Chris Osgood and the Hockey Hall of Fame conundrum
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Unfortunately for Chris Osgood, his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility comes in the same season as Dominik Hasek’s. 

It’s pretty much the starkest comparison that can be drawn between two winning goalies from the same era: One was a steady success with little individual glory in the regular season, with spectacular postseason credentials in three Stanley Cup wins; and the other was a human highlight reel who captured Vezinas and Harts and, eventually in his latter years, Stanley Cups.

One was a winner. The other was a legend. One satisfies the “hockey” of the building’s title, and the other one better fulfills the “fame” component.

Osgood’s name won’t be announced when the 2014 Hall of Fame class is revealed on Monday. He’s not a first-ballot guy; hell, he might not be a second or third either. He’s a player whose candidacy depends very much on the peers he’s matched up against and the criteria that the illustrious panel of voters decides to apply.

Like, for example, if they weigh the postseason heavier than the regular season. (Just like suspensions!)

We covered this issue when Osgood retired three years ago, when his GM Ken Holland said the former Detroit Red Wings goalie has the numbers and the postseason accomplishments to warrant enshrinement. It’s an interesting case:

Career wins: 401. That’s 10th all time, and he's just the 10th goalie to hit that mark. In front of him: All Hall of Famers, save for Curtis Joseph. In back of him: Guys like Mike Vernon and Tom Barasso in the “great but not great enough” category.

Career playoff wins: 74. An impressive total and more than Jacques Plante, but behind Vernon (77).

Career playoff goals-against average: 2.094. That’s No. 15 all-time and ahead of Plante, Ed Belfour and Patrick Roy.

He’s one of only six players to have 400 victories and three Stanley Cups. Four of them are in the Hall, and the other is Marty Brodeur.

His career regular-season numbers are good but ultimately pedestrian outside of the wins: .905 and 2.49. His 50 shutouts aren’t in the top 25 all time. He won two Jennings Trophies with the Wings.

The biggest knock on Osgood’s candidacy has always been that he’s a product of the Red Wings’ system. I’ve always found that to be a tough argument to make because the fact is that some goalies make the system work better than others. It’s symbiotic. Martin Brodeur might not have been Martin Brodeur on another team, but working with the Devils system he made it click and it made him a legend. 

But if you wanted to make that “product of Detroit” argument, his numbers in 103 games with the Islanders (2.65, .904 save percentage) and in 76 games for the Blues (2.34, .907) aren’t terribly off the pace for what he did with the Red Wings (565 games, 2.49, .905).

The Chris Osgood Hall of Fame debate is an intriguing one because there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. Some argue for enshrinement, some see him as ordinary.

Ultimately, I think Osgood gets in. Not that I think he’s elite or immortal; again, compare his legacy to that of Hasek and it’s like comparing Michael Jackson to some other hitmaking singer: They both have gold records, but one reinvented the game. 

But 400 wins is usually enough to punch your ticket as long as there’s another component to your legacy. CuJo has the wins but not the accomplishments. Osgood has the wins and was the starting goalie in two of his three Stanley Cup seasons, to go along with stellar postseason numbers.

Is Chris Osgood a Hall of Famer?