by PuckStopsHere on 06/12/09 at 02:10 AM ET
In the comments of the answering some questions thread it remains clear that the Detroit fans who make up a large portion of the Kukla’s Korner readership maintain some misconceptions about Chris Osgood. There remains the idea that he is still a top goalie and a few people even claim he is still in the prime of his career. This clearly isn’t the case and is relatively easy to show statistically,
I am using saves percentage as a marker for Chris Osgood’s level of play. Although this one number is not perfect to determine how well he plays (as the quality of shots he faces will not be taken into account), it is the most reliable of the standard statistical numbers reported for goaltenders. I have plotted Osgood’s saves percentage in each season of his career along with the league average saves percentage. These numbers combine both regular season and playoff play to get one total saves percentage
Clearly one can see that over his career Osgood’s saves percentage (black line) has bounced around between .894 and .919. The .919 number was last season. The .894 number has occurred twice in his rookie year of 1993/94 and in 2002/03. The league average saves percentage (red line) has climbed throughout his career as well. It took a big jump in 1996/97 and has not dropped to its earlier levels since. It peaked in 2003/04 before the lockout and dropped with the “obstruction crackdown” and increased number of power plays after the lockout and appears to be climbing back to pre-lockout levels again.
Now we can plot the difference between Osgood’s saves percentage and the league average. This is the gain between Osgood and an average goalie - noting that an average NHL goalie is still a pretty good goalie - it is far above the replacement level minor leaguer.
It is quite clear that by his sophomore season, Chris Osgood was already playing the best hockey of his career. His 1994/95 season that shows the highest point on this graph may be a bit of a statistical anomaly, since Osgood only played in 21 games that season (including playoffs). He stayed a few points above the league average consistently until the early 2000’s. This was the prime of Osgood’s career. It makes sense because these were the years he was in his mid to upper 20’s which are common years for the prime of any hockey player. There is a clear trend of decline in the data - relative to the league average. Two years stick out as being unusual. His 2002/03 season that was split between the New York Islanders and St Louis Blues was worse than expectation and last season was better than expectation.
We see from this that the league average for goaltenders has fluctuated significantly during his career. Comparing numbers from Osgood of today to the numbers of a goalie in the mid-90’s is not something that can be done without due care (this shows that the comparison between Osgood of today and Patrick Roy of 1996 that Paul in Miami likes to make is very flawed).
The conditions of NHL play have changed during Chris Osgood’s time. They have come to better favor goaltending. Osgood’s raw numbers have risen along with the general trend obscuring part of his decline. When you add in an anomalously good season last year and a strong playoff this year (though coupled with a poor regular season), one can be fooled into thinking Chris Osgood is as good today as he has ever been. He isn’t. His career prime occurred about ten years ago. Last year is the first time in half a decade he was above the league average in saves percentage. He has held up well in the playoffs this season, but his decline is clear in the statistics.
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