Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Two Sentence Argument against Chris Osgood

"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."
Chris Osgood

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.


Robert Vollman said...

Regular season, all teams, whole NHL career:

With Osgood: .629 WIN%, .905 SV%
Without: .640 WIN%, .906 SV%

Overall his teams have actually been more likely to win without him.

AWF said...

I'd have to think there is a very small minority of people trying to claim Osgood as one of the best of his peers.

Doogie2K said...

And they'd be out to lunch, since the win stat is inherently a flawed one. What stat is more attributable to all 20 people yet credited to just the one? Even if that one is ostensibly the most important person in deciding the outcome, he's still responsible for less than half of the decision.

James Benesh said...

Craig Button's comments on Osgood on NHL network a few nights ago made me sick. He said Osgood belonged with the game's greats. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

Way to state the obvious there genius. No kidding his record isn't as good against stronger teams. That's the whole point, the better the opposition, the harder it is to win.

Your second statement is invalid as well because even if his team's record was better with him on the bench, he still came in and took over for one of the greatest goalies of all time and took the wings to the cup.

Way to provide that in-depth analysis.

Osgood is going to the hall of fame and there is nothing you can do about it.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Anonymous: This isn't an in-depth analysis, it's a very simple analysis. That's kind of the point, because to be honest nobody on the pro-Osgood side has any depth at all in their arguments. It's all wins, Cups, "yes his teammates were great but he still had to make the clutch saves."

I've talked about Osgood in depth here before. Any proper analysis starts with the numbers Rob Vollman posted above. It was the same story in the playoffs, the Wings' GAA was pretty much identical with and without Osgood. Add to that his very average save percentage record, and you really don't have much left at all to make any kind of substantive case. That's without even talking about win thresholds, Vezina voting, international selection, money earned, trade/waiver decisions, subjective viewpoints, and other methods of evaluation that unanimously paint a picture of Osgood as nothing more than a decent netminder.

As far as what the Hall of Fame will do, I don't think any of us have any idea, to be honest. A lot has changed in goaltending over the last two decades, and we haven't seen the real test cases come up yet. Maybe the Hall puts Osgood in and leaves Joseph out, maybe they put Joseph in and leave Osgood out, maybe they go back and stick in older guys like Barrasso and Vernon or maybe they just move on without them, I really have no idea.

So I'm not going to make any predictions, only to state in no uncertain terms that by any reasonable standard Osgood does not deserve to be considered to be recognized ahead of a good number of his peers who were quite simply better goaltenders.

Anonymous said...

If you're going to make that argument against Osgood, you have to make the same arguments against Broduer, who has played in the most goalie friendly system in the NHL for the past 15 years, and nobody is arguing he doesn't belong.

What everyone conveniently leaves out of their anti=osgood writing is how he took a miserable Islanders team to the playoffs immediately upon arrival and did the same in St. Louis.

The guy is a winner.

EVERY great/HOF goalie played on great teams. You can't reach those numbers without doing so. Why is it suddenly a problem with Osgood?

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

If you're going to make that argument against Osgood, you have to make the same arguments against Broduer

Are you suggesting I haven't? Do you even know what site you are commenting on?

What everyone conveniently leaves out of their anti=osgood writing is how he took a miserable Islanders team to the playoffs immediately upon arrival and did the same in St. Louis.

2000-01 Islanders:
29th in goals scored
27th in goals against

2001-02 Islanders:
6th in goals scored
21st in goals against

Osgood improved the Islanders' goaltending over a washed-up John Vanbiesbrouck, I'll agree with that, but he was not the main reason they made the playoffs. The Isles got decent because they had a major offensive improvement under Peter Laviolette.

In their rush to defend Osgood, people always seem to forget that Garth Snow took Osgood's job away in 2002-03, and the Islanders still made the playoffs. Then they made it again the next year with Rick DiPietro between the pipes.

As for St. Louis, the Blues had a streak of 23 consecutive playoff appearances when they acquired Osgood. They were making the playoffs with guys like Roman Turek and Brent Johnson in net because they had Pronger and MacInnis leading a stacked team. To suggest that Osgood was carrying the load there is laughable revisionism.

The guy is a winner.

Please. None of his teams have ever won anything more with him than they did without him. If Osgood is a "winner", it's purely because of circumstance not skill.

EVERY great/HOF goalie played on great teams. You can't reach those numbers without doing so. Why is it suddenly a problem with Osgood?

I agree that some people have a double standard when it comes to rating goalies on strong teams, but I don't. I've gone on record as saying that guys like Cheevers and Giacomin don't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, and I'm still not sold on guys like Fuhr either. If those guys weren't worthy, then neither is Osgood.

Rating goalies based on team success is a pretty brainless thing to do, and arguing against that line of thinking is essentially the entire point of this blog.

Robert Vollman said...

Anonymous is right, you need to start exposing how overrated Martin Brodeur is!! :)

Ah but seriously, to his point, the 2001-02 Islanders were totally different than the 2000-01 Islanders in more ways than just Osgood. They brought in Peter Laviolette, 3 of their top 4 scorers (Alexei Yashin, Michael Peca and Shawn Bates), not to mention their +/- and post-season scoring leader Adrian Aucoin. It was a complete overhaul! And, most importantly, they were .579 with Snow in nets, and .530 with Osgood.

Of course, the Isles were so thrilled with Osgood that they kept him.

... Oops, I mean they got rid of him right away. But they got a lot in return!

... Oops, I mean they upgraded a 3rd-rounder to a 2nd-rounder and got a career minor-leaguer.

He hardly made an immediate impact with the Blues. On a team that used 7 goalies, Osgood's save percentage was 5th. His first full season with the Blues saw them drop 8 points in the standings. They were so pleased with his performance that they also let him go, and replaced him with Curtis Sanford - whose save percentage was .908 to Osgood's .910.

I would hope most Hall of Famers would be more than a minor improvement over Curtis Sanford!

You know, you're probably right - they probably will put him in the Hall of Fame, which is a real pity because there are probably at least a 100 goalies who have had better careers - literally.

Going into this season his career GVT is 98.9, making him 389th most valuable NHL player among those with who played in the post-expansion era. That puts him behind Darren Puppa and Felix Potvin, but I'm sure they're being considered for the Hall, too.

The point is that by any OBJECTIVE measurement, Osgood is a decent goalie at best. It's only when you look at him subjectively that you can make a case for his inclusion.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Great minds think alike, Rob. I agree that the GVT rankings are quite instructive. To be fair to Osgood, if you add his playoff numbers he jumps ahead of guys like Puppa, but his comparables are still nowhere near the Hall of Fame level. Unfortunately, it seems pretty clear that many casual fans have no idea how to evaluate goalies.

overpass said...

Unfortunately, it seems pretty clear that many casual fans have no idea how to evaluate goalies.

If only it were limited to casual fans. Scott Burnside, a writer with a national platform, advocates for Osgood in the HHOF based entirely on 400 wins and 3 rings.

It amazes me that anyone who followed hockey since 1995 would remember Chris Osgood as a Hall of Fame goaltender. But it seems that for some people the hockey card stats trump everything.

Jonathan said...

Brodeur: .914
Same team all of his career.
Never risked losing his job as a starter.
Generally started 70+ games.
Always picked for Canada's national team. Always.

Any Brodeur/Osgood comparison is rather silly.

J. Gryphon said...

I wouldn't say that there are probably one hundred goalies that've had better careers than Osgood...after all, if you were a player, I think you would definitely take the wins, Cups, etc., over not having them, if you could, even if winning the Cups somehow ensured you wouldn't be a great goalie.

There are probably at least that many goalies that were more valuable than Osgood, though. It's true that, aside from playing on a lot of great teams, he doesn't have any particularly notable skills; he's just an average, or maybe slightly above average, NHL goalie...that's good enough for most people, as well it should be, but, even so, that alone shouldn't be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame.

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time saying no to Osgood for all that winning as well. That is, I did, until I realized that right there with Osgood in Detroit, all this while, has been a legendary defenseman.

Above, the record with and without Osgood, regular season--Osgood has been a starter for as long as I can remember, until last year at least, so he'd be playing the better teams, right? Then again, I've only been a fan long enough to see a couple of playoff games from Ray Bourque.

Anonymous said...

Ozzy's closest analogy in modern hockey is Dwayne Roloson. The only truly amazing moment of Osgood's career is the 2009 playoffs; otherwise he's been no more than decent. 1998 and 2008 do not count; he had Fort Knox playing in front of him and Hasek was in a severe slump (that he seems to have come out of in his post-NHL career). Does Chris deserve the HHOF for one amazing run?

Agent Orange said...

Robert Vollman said...

"Regular season, all teams, whole NHL career:

With Osgood: .629 WIN%, .905 SV%
Without: .640 WIN%, .906 SV%

Overall his teams have actually been more likely to win without him."

For the sake of discussion lets assume same save rate statistics between Osgood and his back-ups.

(an actual difference of 0.001% ~18 goals over Osgood's career easily a difference in good/bad luck).

What would be the most likely causes to a different win% with the same save rates?

1) Goal support
2) Shots against

Which of those do Osgood and back-ups have control of? Well I guess Osgood has scored a goal but I don't really think that's relevant.

Most likely case it was a little of both (without GF and GAA numbers we can't really guess). However we can conclude that Osgood's lower win% was because he was in net for games in which the opponents allowed less goals and took more shots. Sounds a lot like he was playing against tougher competition than his back-ups.

That said is it unreasonable to assume those tougher teams may have been higher shooting % teams as well? Perhaps. It would at the very least explain the save rate statistic difference between Osgood and his back-ups.

By the same token I could say

Brodeur 0.913 sv% 0.551 win%
Vokoun 0.916 sv% 0.420 win%

Seems like teams are a lot more likely to win with Marty in net.

(Also the site I have lists Osgood as having a 0.539 win% what is your resource?)

Agent Orange said...


Not that it changes anything but I think the stat where Osgood is on the bench should be 10-4.

95: 3-1
97: 4-0
06: 0-1
07: 2-1
10: 1-1

It is worth mentioning that the majority of the good (7-1) came when he was pretty young and was in a platoon situation with an established guy who had won a cup. From 95-98 Osgood was 6-1 while Vernon was 7-1.

From 06-10 Osgood was 7-1 while the other goalies were 3-3.

That leaves us to consider 94 and 99-04.

94 Osgood was 3-2 in the series against San Jose. The story of this series was the Wings inabily to score on Irbe.

99 Osgood played well against Anaheim, battled injury against Colorado and only played 2 of the games. Detroited scored 2 goals in those 2 games.

00 Osgood again played well against the Kings and then ran into the Aves. In 5 games the Wings scored 8 goals.

It seems like we are judging Osgood based on 2 things

1) 4 series between 01 and 04
2) Osgood running into Roy and the Aves in 96, 99, 00.

Seems like some (bad) luck of the draw for Osgood. I put the 01 loss to the Kings almost solely on Osgood. The Wings were a much better team and Osgood was outplayed by Potvin.

Between 02-04 Osgood started on the road and helped his teams get to game 7s in 2 of them.

Anonymous said...

400+ wins and 3 rings. I love how that gets so easily dismissed around here. Someone had to win those games, and plenty of goalies couldn't get the job done in similar circumstances. Put the calculator down and put the guy in the HHOF. Shut up, that's why.

Hostpph.com said...

well besides that two sentence argument, I could easily add some more and solid arguments against Chris Osgood!