So this much we know.
One evening, in the not-too-distant future, fans will look to the rafters at Joe Louis Arena—or wherever the Red Wings will be playing by then—and see a large red “jersey” with a white No. 5 and the name “LIDSTROM” adorning it, the years played for the Red Wings listed below it, in red on a white band.
That much we know.
But, and I know my timing isn’t great here, I submit that those same fans should also be able to crane their necks and see a big red swatch of fabric with a white No. 30 and the name “OSGOOD” sewn onto it.
You heard me.
It’s a few weeks into the NHL regular season, and that may turn some people on, but this is the perfect time to be an argument starter, if you ask me. Let these October games drone on in the background while we muck it up in the corner, figuratively speaking.
Chris Osgood’s number retired? You betcha.
By the time he hangs them up for good, Osgood will have likely passed the great Terry Sawchuk for most wins by a Red Wings goaltender. For starters.
He has three Stanley Cups, two earned as the starter throughout the playoffs—and ten years apart, which must be some sort of record, somewhere.
Your honor, the defense rests.
Oh, I know I’ll have to do some cross-examining here. I can practically hear the keyboards being pounded on furiously by those opposed to me. That’s OK. Nothing is ever a slam dunk when it comes to Chris Osgood’s virtues in Detroit.
I don’t know why some are so resistant to back off and just accept that Osgood has had a fine career. The arguments against him have turned almost spiteful and personal, and I have no idea why.
The naysayers talk like this: The Red Wings win in spite of him, especially in 1998. He has great teams in front of him, so that’s why his numbers look so good. Blah-blah-blah.
As if Sawchuk played with a bunch of chopped liver back in the day.
I promise you, it’s OK to give Osgood his due. It really is. I promise the sun will rise tomorrow, and in the east. No children or pets will be harmed. Promise.
And it’s also OK to not only give him his due, but to also raise his number among the team’s all-time greats because—and here’s where it really gets fun—Chris Osgood is, in fact, one of the team’s all-time greats.
Let’s play a little game.
Name me three goalies in team history better than Osgood. Just three, other than Sawchuck.
I’ll even play along with you.
There was the kewpie doll-faced Harry Lumley, who was between the pipes during the Red Wings’ successful 1950 Stanley Cup run. Lumley won 163 games for the Red Wings in six seasons (1944-50). I might give you that one out of benevolence.
There was Mike Vernon, with his 1997 Cup. But Mike didn’t play in Detroit very long, and I’m not sure he was all that much better, if at all, than Ozzie.
Here’s one: Dominik Hasek. It’s hard not to give you Dom, although he wasn’t a Red Wing all that long. But you almost have to include him because of his overall career.
So you have Lumley, Vernon, and Hasek. I’d scratch Vernon. And Hasek gets the nod mostly for his time in Buffalo.
The question begs: Why wouldn’t you so honor the second-best goalie in franchise history?
Because that’s what Chris Osgood is, like it or not.
I’m putting Ozzie ahead of Lumley because of longevity, and I’m even slotting him in front of Hasek for the same reason, though I wouldn’t squawk if you put Dom ahead of Osgood.
But you’re not going to raise Hasek’s No. 39 to the rafters because he wasn’t a Red Wing long enough.
The Osgood haters spew the same tired arguments, already listed above. And it’s not a very long list anyhow.
How exactly do the Red Wings win in spite of Chris Osgood?
The team surrendered nearly three goals a game during the regular season last year, an unheard of number in Detroit. Osgood was largely to blame for that, and he wouldn’t argue. But the Red Wings came within a whisker of winning another Cup.
Why? Because Osgood raised his game several notches, and was a genuine Conn Smythe candidate until the Penguins captured Game Seven.
This is going to draw more venom, but I’m telling you that Chris Osgood is the greatest money goalie I’ve ever seen in Detroit. Bar none, even Hasek.
No one bounced back from bad games like Osgood. No one came up bigger in more pressure situations than Osgood. And no one was as unflappable as Osgood is between the pipes, because no one was better between the ears.
Give me Chris Osgood if I need a game to be won, over anyone who’s ever worn a Red Wings jersey, save for Sawchuk, who was the best ever, regardless of decade or era or generation.
Retiring his No. 30 and raising it to sway above the ice along with Yzerman and Lindsay and Howe and Abel and Delvecchio and Sawchuk and (eventually) Lidstrom is a no-brainer, as far as I’m concerned.
Go ahead. Make your case.