When he was playing in a New York Islanders sweater he looked like an ex-girlfriend with another love. While he was still the same goaltender with the converted, old-fashioned helmet, there was something that made Red Wings hockey without Chris Osgood feel uncomfortable. From the time he was selected in the waivers draft in 2001 by Long Island’s NHL team, not even Curtis Joseph or Dominik Hasek (the first time) could fill the void that was left behind without number 30. Now with his career officially over, the Red Wings must learn to move on without their most trusted netminder.
While Osgood is statistically one of the top goaltenders in regular season and postseason history, he will end up likely waiting a few years before he gains entry into hockey’s Hall of Fame. Clouded by the fact he played for one of the most dominant franchises in the modern era, Osgood’s number four ranking for shutouts in the postseason demonstrates that he delivered his best performances when they mattered the most. While the long slapshot once did him in, Osgood became known more for his sure-handedness during the season’s most critical games.
If championships best describe one’s career, then the decade that separated Osgood’s first Stanley Cup as a starter to his last one, highlights a career of incredible success. In both 1998 and 2008, Osgood spent the season before as the backup before finding his way to the number one position on the team goaltending depth chart. While it can be debated that both efforts were incredible feats based on the tremendous pressure of the position, his 2008 transition from Dominik Hasek’s spot starter to a postseason spark, should live on in Red Wings goaltending history.
Though his stats were unable to eclipse Terry Sawchuk’s in all categories, this city’s hockey team has not had a goalie of such sustained caliber to call its own. While we threw our collective hopes behind Curtis Joseph, Mike Vernon or countless others, we always knew that Chris Osgood was there as the safe choice just in case these “bigger names” didn’t come through. With Ozzie now hanging up his pads and iconic helmet, hopefully the league will give him his due respect for an incredible, championship career.