"It's not easy to win in this league, otherwise everybody would be doing it. I don't know how many goalies have played here in the last 15 years that I've been here, but I'm still here and I'm still wanted. That's what matters most and accounts for more than anything else. I'm a winner. That's all I do."
On the occasion of Chris Osgood's 400th win in the National Hockey League, I feel compelled to throw up this brief post. Every goalie needs to be evaluated in the context of their team environment. That's especially crucial for those who want to rely on statistics like wins and Cups in their analysis. My best attempt to concisely summarize Osgood's team environment is the following:
Chris Osgood's career record in playoff series where his team had a 20+ point regular season advantage over their opponents:
7 wins, 1 loss
Chris Osgood's career record in playoff series where his team had an advantage of less than 20 points over their opponents:
8 wins, 8 losses
(You might want to pull out a third sentence as well, either to establish context or in case that other guy whips out an anecdote about Montreal beating Washington or some other rare event: Over the course of Osgood's career, teams with a 20+ point advantage are 33-7 in playoff series).
When the Detroit Red Wings were way better than their playoff opponents, they nearly always heavily outplayed and outshot them. It's not too surprising that the stronger team with a big edge in scoring chances usually won.
On the other hand, when his teammates weren't far better than the opposition then it was pretty much a coin flip for Osgood's teams in the playoffs. When two even teams meet, you'd expect them both to win about half of the time. If one of them has a great, game-changing clutch performer then you'd expect his team to win more often, yet that wasn't the case. Throughout Osgood's playoff career in Detroit the Red Wings were mostly the higher-ranked team even in the closer matchups, yet with home ice advantage and a "winner" in net they still lost as often as they won.
The context is further displayed by the results of the other goalies who played in Detroit. Not only was Osgood often relegated to a backup role come playoff time, but overall the Red Wings really didn't suffer with other goalies in net. Here's a third line that really should be added to the two above to paint a complete picture:
Chris Osgood's teams' career record in playoff series where Osgood was sitting on the bench as the backup goalie:
9 wins, 4 losses
Expressing records like this can help drive home the point that certain goalies who won lots of jewellery did not, in fact, outperform others in the playoffs who won none. They merely played for much stronger teams, and when they did not have that advantage on their side then they were not big enough difference-makers to lift their team results above average.
Chris Osgood deserves credit for the determination and competitiveness that have allowed him to beat the odds and carve out a long and lucrative big-league career. Career milestones are a fitting time to show him that appreciation, but any attempt to portray him as one of the best of his peers is misinformed, career win totals notwithstanding.