When Chris Osgood was sidelined with a torn groin that required sports hernia surgery on Jan. 11, most people saw it as no big deal. After all, despite his better play as of late, he was still just the backup goalie.
Unfortunately, it's a lot more serious then people think as Osgood may be out longer then the announced prognosis of two months.
When Osgood was struggling last year and the Wings were in danger of possibly missing the playoffs, Jimmy Howard had to play 27 of Detroit's final 29 regular-season games because Osgood could not be trusted last season.
Last year was Howard's first-ever NHL regular season, and when the playoffs came around, he didn't perform as well as he did during the year, leaving some to believe that all of the starts in the regular season led to him being tired when the game mattered more.
With Osgood now hurt, the Wings once again find themselves in a similar position, with no one trust worthy enough to give Howard a rest every now and then. Joey McDonald does not have the trust of Mike Babcock and cannot even maintain a .900 save percentage in the inferior American Hockey League.
Detroit's other two farmhands are not even in consideration at this point in their careers. 2008 first-round draft pick Thomas McCollum looks more and more like a bust with each passing day and has performed so badly that he has been sent to the ECHL a few times to try and gain some confidence. Jordan Pearce has also seen ECHL action this year, and his stats down there don't exactly paint a pretty picture.
Unfortunately for the Wings, their first try at fixing this problem failed miserably after they tried to sign NHL veteran Evgeni Nabokov to a very cap-friendly contract. Nabokov had no chance of clearing waivers at a prorated cap hit of just $240,000. As expected, he was claimed by the New York Islanders and refuses to report to the team.
The Wings only course of action now will be trying to acquire a goalie via trade. Some reliable backups who could be available for pretty cheap include Jose Theodore, Ty Conklin or Mike Smith. Any way you cut it, the Wings cannot afford to make the same mistake last year by over-playing Howard and having him play tired when the games start to really matter.