Osgood bids farewell to lynch mob in Detroit

Red Wings great, yes I said “great” Chris Osgood announced he is retiring after 17 seasons in the NHL.

The 38-year-old goaltender is hanging up the pads after 401 career victories and three Stanley Cup championships. While playing 14 of his 17 seasons with the Red Wings, Osgood has been stuck in the middle of controversy whether he possesses the talent to get to 400 wins or if that landmark is due to the fact he played with an elite line-up in front of him.

That could only happen in Detroit, a place where playing goalie can be the roughest gig in the NHL, anywhere else they would already be talking hanging his jersey in the rafters.

This goes back to the days of Rogie Vachon who came to Detroit from the L.A. Kings in the late 70’s. Expected to be the savior for the struggling franchise, Vachon buckled to the high pressure brought on by the fans and media in Motown.

I remember the day of that acquisition and attended most of the games the first season Rogie took the ice at Olympia Stadium. It was a brutal spot to be in since hockey is a team sport and it normally takes more than one man to get the job done.

Surrounded by high expectations and his first season wearing the Wing, Vachon finished with a total of just 10 wins and saw his goals against average increase more than one goal a game from 2.86 to 3.90.

After two seasons that produced a total of 30 wins Vachon packed his bags and headed to Boston to make way for the next victim, Bob Suave who after one season with 11 wins and a 4.19 GAA couldn’t get back to Buffalo quick enough.

That’s the life of being a goaltender in Detroit.

Pressure, finger-pointing and lack of appreciation like in Osgood’s case.

Anyone who thinks a guy like Osgood isn’t worthy of the NHL Hall of Fame is either a member of the goalie lynch-mob in Detroit or hasn’t seen the man play enough.

Ozzie put up astounding numbers throughout much of his career and finished with career totals of 744 games, a  2.49 GAA, .905 save percentage and 50 shutouts. He excelled in several of the postseason appearances as well, ending with a 74-49 record, .909 save percentage, 2.49 GAA and 15 shutouts.

After standing on his head throughout the NHL Playoffs in 2009, Osgood shut out the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 5 of the finals and set his team up for the kill. With Osgood on the way to being named MVP of the playoffs, the Red Wings offense sputtered out scoring just one goal per game in the final two contests and losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

While the Red Wings were on their way that season, little credit went to Osgood but of course after the finals were over, finger-pointing by the goalie lynch-mob came back to life.

The Red Wings are a class organization and are known to keep their loyal players on staff after retirement. After superstar Steve Yzerman retired he was handed a front office job and groomed for a future GM job in the NHL. That opportunity happened last season when Stevie Y. was named Tampa Bay Lightning GM and had one of the most impressive rookie years to date for an exec in the NHL.

Also joining the Red Wings staff after retirement were former enforcer, Joey Kocur, who was pegged the video guy and Kirk Maltby who was placed in a scouting position with the team.

Like these former teammates, Osgood will be staying on the Detroit staff as a goalie consultant and one thing for sure, the man will try to implement his call, cool collective attitude he brought to every game during his career, a trait many people may have confused with apathy.

Red Wings GM Ken Holland said Osgood should be voted into the Hall of Fame once he’s eligible in 2014 and coach Mike Babcock has voiced the same. It may be time for the goalie lynch mob in Motown to listen to these two key elements  who helped build the Red Wings into one of the most powerful franchises in the NHL.

Originally from Detroit, Tom is an Atlanta-based sportswriter whose work has been published in the New York Daily News, Washington Times, Detroit Free Press and national hockey mags including The Hockey News (Canada) and USA Hockey Magazine. Follow Tom on Twitter @TomFerda

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