Jeff Riger: Joey Mac Back But What About Ozzie?
Detroit Red Wings
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The Wings have decided on their 3rd string goalie as the team has inked Joey MacDonald to a 2 year deal with the terms of the contract not known. But what about the back up? Will Chris Osgood be coming back to Hockey Town at the age of 38 to play another season or will it be someone else, maybe Ty Conklin?
As much as I would like to see Ozzie return for another year where he could add to his already impressive lists of achievements and continue to help Jimmy Howard mature, my gut feeling is that he is done! I still believe that Osgood has what it takes to be an effective backup in the NHL and for Detroit. But the fact that he has not played very many games in the last couple of seasons due to health issues probably will be the reason that his career could be over. It seems that if Osgood is not brought back by Detroit then he would retire, that is pure speculation on my part but I think a lot of people feel the same way. So what next?
If Osgood is not back next season and his career is indeed over what should the Wings do for the guy? I asked this very question this weekend on the air and the majority of people that called in agreed that Osgood’s number 30 should be raised to the rafters at the Joe with the other legendary Wings. But does he deserve it? You look at the main 6 numbers that currently reside in the rafters and it’s hard to argue about their qualifications and impact on the Wings. Names like Steve Yzerman, Gordie Howe, Terry Sawchuk, Alex Delvecchio, Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay are the greats, they are players that have had unparallel success in the NHL and it’s quite an honor to be mentioned in the same group as them. So does Osgood compare? I say yes! Let me explain…
To me there is no greater honor that a team can bestow on a player then retiring his number. So with that being said, I take the process very seriously and I think the Wings always do it right. There are two major questions that I ask when trying to figure out if a guy is deserving of nobody ever wearing his digits again. They questions are as follows
1. Was the player in question GREAT?
I think the answer for Osgood is yes. He has won 3 Stanley Cups in Detroit where he was the number one goalie for 2 of them. He has a 2.49 career goals against average and in the postseason it is barely over 2. So many people try to diminish Osgood’s credentials by saying he played in back of some of the greatest players ever to play the game and that is an accurate statement. But that should not take away from the fact that Ozzie was the net minder and made the saves that he had to make. If another goalie was in net during his championship years would the Wings have won? It’s impossible to say just like it’s impossible to know if Osgood could have won on different teams. So why ask? Osgood did spend some time with the Islanders and Blues where he did see the postseason which people always seem to forget about. The bottom line is, you need good players to win a cup, the Wings had many of them and Osgood was included. Sure he got overshadowed by the Lidstrom’s, Yzerman’s and even Zetterberg in 2008 when he won his last cup but there is not doubt that he was just as important to the team as they were. The fact that he is not flashy should not count against him. He is one of ten goalies that has over 400 wins, he has gone to All Star games plus he could have won the Conn Smythe in 2009 if the Wings would have repeated considering he was the reason they got there. He was also in consideration for it in 2008. So can we stop arguing about if he was great? The answer is yes!
2. Does the player in question want to be here?
The answer for this question has to be yes as well. The way I see it is that Osgood pretty much embodies everything that you would want from a guy that has his number retired. He has won big games, he has always been a class act and he is a lifelong Red Wing. There are so many players out there that could not care less if they finish playing in the town that they made their career in. Osgood does! He has taken less money to be here plus he has taken it upon himself to be more than a player, just ask Jimmy Howard. Osgood never wanted to leave, he was left unprotected by the Wings after they signed Dominik Hasek in the 2002 season and has felt fortunate that he has found his way back to Detroit. Osgood makes his home here even in the off season where he could live elsewhere like so many other players do. He has never asked to be traded nor left because he could have got more money elsewhere. He is just as much a Detroiter as you and I are and will continue to be once his playing days are done
So there it is, Osgood passes my very tough two question test? But does he to you?