It seems Chris Osgood has come down with bitter old man syndrome.
Being displaced as starting goaltender by Jimmy Howard has definitely rubbed Ozzy the wrong way. In a recent article by Chris McCosky, he voiced his displeasure with how coach Mike Babcock has handled the situation.
“You have to get into some games and get into a groove and then I can play like I can. It’s not that I don’t know how to do it. But if you don’t play, it’s impossible to get to that point. I’m a goalie, ok, and I’ve been playing for 20-some years since juniors. What I say (about goaltending) is closer to the facts than what he (Babcock) would say.”
Normally, I would agree with the first half of Ozzy’s quote. Giving goaltenders a steady diet of games gets them into the flow and rhythm of the game. However, Osgood has given up three goals or more in five of his past seven starts, going 1-4-2 in that span.
This Red Wing team cannot overcome deficits at will like last season. Keeping pucks out of the net is paramount now, and Howard is playing better than Ozzy. It’s that simple.
The second half of Osgood’s quote concerns me. As if this team isn’t already facing enough adversity, a locker room standoff between backup goalie and coach is the last thing they need. And for all this to come up as the team is starting to get healthier, the timing couldn’t be worse.
Babcock is taking the high road and sticking to the goaltending strategy he has always kept: play the hot hand. Right now, there’s no argument as to who that is.
The Wings have enough cohesion and chemistry to not let this become an on-going distraction of soap-operatic proportions, so we shouldn’t expect it to create any more headlines.
However, it does not bode well for Osgood’s return next season.
While he does have one year left on his contract, he is currently making double what Howard makes. Given the season Howard has had thus far, he is due a raise and contract extension. With Daniel Larsson and Thomas McCollum waiting in Grand Rapids for their shot, Osgood has become all but expendable.
“I know how to play, I just have to play. That’s all there is to it. It’s not a matter of earning an opportunity,” continued Osgood. And it seems some agree.
McCosky, who wrote the piece for the Detroit News, contends that regardless of how well Howard plays during the season, Osgood should be the starting goaltender come playoff time. If Osgood can’t maintain the starting job during the season, what makes everyone think he’ll turn it around just because the playoffs start?
Yes, we all remember the playoff runs the past two seasons, but this is a very different Red Wings team. Osgood’s mistakes were concealed by offensive prowess. This team isn’t capable of maintaining that kind of production anymore. We’ve seen evidence of that all season long.
What message would it send to Howard if he were pulled in favor of Osgood after keeping the team in the playoff hunt all season?
What message does it send to the players? If you’ve won a Cup with the team, no matter how far your skills have regressed, you will receive preference. That’s certainly not a precedent a team with the reputation and character of the Red Wings wants to set.
Osgood seems to be playing, and talking, his way out of town.