2002–03 NHL season
|League||National Hockey League|
|Duration||October 9, 2002 – June 9, 2003|
|Number of games||82|
|Number of teams||30|
|Presidents' Trophy||Ottawa Senators|
|Season MVP||Peter Forsberg, Colorado Avalanche|
|Top scorer||Peter Forsberg, Colorado Avalanche|
|Eastern champions||New Jersey Devils|
|Eastern runners-up||Ottawa Senators|
|Western champions||Mighty Ducks of Anaheim|
|Western runners-up||Minnesota Wild|
|Playoffs MVP||Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim|
|Stanley Cup champions||New Jersey Devils|
|Runners-up||Mighty Ducks of Anaheim|
The 2002–03 NHL season was the 86th regular season of the National Hockey League. The Stanley Cup winners were the New Jersey Devils, who won the best of seven series 4–3 against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Regular season 
As always the regular season saw several surprises. The San Jose Sharks, who many felt would be one of the elite teams in the West, stumbled early and badly disassembled much of the team. The two-year-old Minnesota Wild, on the other hand, got out to an early start and held onto their first-ever playoff berth throughout the season, winning coach Jacques Lemaire the Jack Adams Award.
The elite teams of previous years such as the Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and New Jersey Devils, were joined by two younger Canadian teams, the Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks. The Dallas Stars, which had missed the playoffs the year before, returned as a major power, backed by the record-setting goaltending of Marty Turco.
The most surprising team was probably the Tampa Bay Lightning, which many had predicted to finish last, contesting for the Southeast Division title and making the playoffs for the first time in seven years. The most disappointing teams, other than the Sharks, were the New York Rangers, who finished out of the playoffs again despite bearing the league's leading payroll, and the Carolina Hurricanes, who finished last overall after a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Final the year before. On January 8, 2003, Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Michael Leighton gained a shutout in his NHL debut in a 0-0 tie versus the Phoenix Coyotes. Coyotes goaltender Zac Bierk earned his first career shutout, although it was not his NHL debut. It was the first time that two goalies in the same game both earned their first career shutouts.
At the midpoint of the season the Canucks lead the Western Conference, and Ottawa lead the East. Vancouver stumbled somewhat over the stretch and lost the Northwest Division title to Colorado and the Western Conference one to Dallas. Ottawa continued to dominate, having the best season in franchise history and winning both the Eastern Conference and the Presidents' Trophy.
The season was also marred by financial difficulties. Despite their success the Ottawa Senators were in bankruptcy protection for almost all of 2003, and at one point could not pay the players. Owner Rod Bryden tried a variety of innovative financing strategies, but these all failed and the team was purchased after the season by billionaire Eugene Melnyk. The Buffalo Sabres also entered bankruptcy protection before being bought by New York businessman Tom Golisano. The financial struggles of the Pittsburgh Penguins continued as the team continued to unload its most expensive players.
Worries over the decline in scoring and the neutral zone trap continued. The season began with an attempted crack down on obstruction and interference, but by the midpoint of the season this effort had petered out.
Final standings 
Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime Losses, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Against, Pts = Points
|1||2||New Jersey Devils||82||46||20||10||6||216||166||108|
|3||8||New York Islanders||82||35||34||11||2||224||231||83|
|4||9||New York Rangers||82||32||36||10||4||210||231||78|
|2||5||Toronto Maple Leafs||82||44||28||7||3||236||208||98|
|1||3||Tampa Bay Lightning||82||36||25||16||5||219||210||93|
|1||P- Ottawa Senators||NE||82||52||21||8||1||263||182||113|
|2||Y- New Jersey Devils||AT||82||46||20||10||6||216||166||108|
|3||Y- Tampa Bay Lightning||SE||82||36||25||16||5||219||210||93|
|4||X- Philadelphia Flyers||AT||82||45||20||13||4||211||166||107|
|5||X- Toronto Maple Leafs||NE||82||44||28||7||3||236||208||98|
|6||X- Washington Capitals||SE||82||39||29||8||6||224||220||92|
|7||X- Boston Bruins||NE||82||36||31||11||4||245||237||87|
|8||X- New York Islanders||AT||82||35||34||11||2||224||231||83|
|9||New York Rangers||AT||82||32||36||10||4||210||231||78|
Divisions: AT – Atlantic, NE – Northeast, SE – Southeast
Z- Clinched Presidents Trophy; Y- Clinched Division; X- Clinched Playoff spot
|1||2||Detroit Red Wings||82||48||20||10||4||269||203||110|
|2||5||St. Louis Blues||82||41||24||11||6||253||222||99|
|5||15||Columbus Blue Jackets||82||29||42||8||3||213||263||69|
|2||7||Mighty Ducks of Anaheim||82||40||27||9||6||203||193||95|
|3||10||Los Angeles Kings||82||33||37||6||6||203||221||78|
|5||14||San Jose Sharks||82||28||37||9||8||214||239||73|
Note: CR = Conference rank; GP = Games played; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; OTL = Overtime loss; GF = Goals for; GA = Goals against; Pts = Points
Bolded teams qualified for the playoffs.
Source: McCarthy, Dave, ed. (2009). NHL Official Guide and Record Book 2009. NHL. p. 156.
Note: All dates in 2003.
The Stanley Cup playoffs was one of shocking upsets in the Western Conference and hard fought battles in the Eastern Conference.
The most closely watched series in the first round was that between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Philadelphia Flyers. Two teams built around physical play with high salary and front-page trade deadline acquisitions. The series did not disappoint and the Flyers ousted the Leafs in seven games. The Senators easily dispatched the New York Islanders, who had traded away their starting goaltender (Chris Osgood) before the playoffs. Despite losing the first two games, Tampa Bay rallied and defeated their division rival the Washington Capitals. New Jersey easily defeated the Boston Bruins, effectively shutting down star player Joe Thornton.
In the west, the first round was one of unmitigated shock to all hockey watchers. The defending champions and perennial cup favourite Detroit Red Wings were swept by the underdog Mighty Ducks of Anaheim behind the goaltending of Jean-Sebastien Giguere. After losing three out of the first four games, the Minnesota Wild came back and defeated the powerhouse Colorado Avalanche in game seven. Vancouver also lost three of its first four games with the St. Louis Blues, but then rallied and won game seven. The only round that surprised no one was round seven of the Dallas Stars-Edmonton Oilers grudge match that saw the first place Stars oust the Oilers with only some difficulty.
The second round in the west brought more upsets. The Minnesota Wild again fell 3–1 behind while playing Vancouver, but rallied and defeated them in seven games. Giguère's stellar goaltending continued to triumph as the Ducks ousted the Stars in six games. The Western Conference final was a meeting of two dark horse teams, but the superb goaltending of Giguère and the Ducks triumphed over the tight checking of the Minnesota Wild. This was the first time since 1994 that a team other than Detroit, Colorado, or Dallas had won the Western conference and earned a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. These playoffs also signaled an end to the dominance of the afore mentioned three teams and shift the balance of power in the Western conference towards teams like Anaheim and San Jose. Of Detroit, Colorado, and Dallas only Detroit has returned to the Stanley Cup Final since, winning the Stanley Cup in 2008 and losing the Final to Pittsburgh in 2009.
The east was far more predictable as Tampa Bay's youth showed when playing the grizzled veterans of the New Jersey Devils and the Ottawa Senators dispatched a tired Flyers team for the second year in a row. The Eastern Conference finals were a contrast of styles between the offensively explosive Senators and the defense minded Devils. The Devils came out to an early lead in the series, Ottawa rallied, winning games five and six on the energizing play of rookie Jason Spezza, but then the Devils regained their form as goaltender Martin Brodeur helped them win game seven and advance to the Stanley Cup final for the third time in four years.
The Stanley Cup Final was a duel between two elite goaltenders, but after seven games the Devils triumphed to win their third Cup in seven years. The series also saw Scott Stevens land one of his prototypical crushing hits on Anaheim captain Paul Kariya, similar to the one that had knocked out Eric Lindros, then of the Flyers in the 2000 Playoffs. Unlike Lindros, Kariya returned to the game only ten minutes later and scored.
|Anaheim vs. New Jersey|
|May 27||Anaheim 0||3 New Jersey|
|May 29||Anaheim 0||3 New Jersey|
|May 31||New Jersey 2||3 Anaheim||OT|
|June 2||New Jersey 0||1 Anaheim||OT|
|June 5||Anaheim 3||6 New Jersey|
|June 7||New Jersey 2||5 Anaheim|
|June 9||Anaheim 0||3 New Jersey|
|New Jersey wins series
4–3 and Stanley Cup
|J. S. Giguere (Anaheim)
wins Conn Smythe Trophy
Playoff bracket 
|Conference Quarterfinals||Conference Semifinals||Conference Finals||Stanley Cup Finals|
|1||Ottawa Senators||4||1||Ottawa Senators||4|
|8||NY Islanders||1||4||Philadelphia Flyers||2||
|2||New Jersey Devils||4||Eastern Conference|
|2||New Jersey Devils||4|
|3||Tampa Bay Lightning||4|
|4||Philadelphia Flyers||4||2||New Jersey Devils||4|
|5||Toronto Maple Leafs||3||3||Tampa Bay Lightning||1||
|E2||New Jersey Devils||4|
|(Pairings are re-seeded after the first round.)|
|W7||Mighty Ducks of Anaheim||3|
|1||Dallas Stars||4||1||Dallas Stars||2|
|8||Edmonton Oilers||2||7||Mighty Ducks of Anaheim||4|
|2||Detroit Red Wings||0|
|7||Mighty Ducks of Anaheim||4|
|7||Mighty Ducks of Anaheim||4|
|6||Minnesota Wild||4||Western Conference|
|4||Vancouver Canucks||4||4||Vancouver Canucks||3|
|5||St. Louis Blues||3||6||Minnesota Wild||4|
- During the first three rounds home ice is determined by seeding number, not position on the bracket. In the Finals the team with the better regular season record has home ice.
The NHL Awards presentation took place in Toronto.
All-Star teams 
Player statistics 
Regular season 
Scoring leaders 
Note: GP = Games Played, G = Goals, A = Assists, Pts = Points
|Pavol Demitra||St. Louis||78||36||57||93|
|Zigmund Palffy||Los Angeles||76||37||48||85|
Leading goaltenders 
Note: GP = Games played; Min - Minutes Played; GA = Goals Against; GAA = Goals Against Average; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; SO = Shutouts
|Marty Turco||Dallas Stars||55||3203||92||1.72||31||10||10||7|
|Roman Cechmanek||Philadelphia Flyers||58||3350||102||1.83||33||15||10||6|
|Dwayne Roloson||Minnesota Wild||50||2945||98||2.00||23||16||8||4|
|Martin Brodeur||New Jersey Devils||73||4374||147||2.02||41||23||9||9|
|Patrick Lalime||Ottawa Senators||67||3943||142||2.16||39||20||7||8|
|Patrick Roy||Colorado Avalanche||63||3769||137||2.18||35||15||13||5|
|Manny Legace||Detroit Red Wings||25||1406||51||2.18||14||5||4||0|
|Tomas Vokoun||Nashville Predators||69||3974||146||2.20||25||31||11||3|
|Robert Esche||Philadelphia Flyers||30||1638||60||2.20||12||9||3||2|
|Manny Fernandez||Minnesota Wild||35||1979||75||2.24||19||13||2||2|
Scoring leaders 
Note: GP = Games Played, G = Goals, A = Assists, Pts = Points
|Jamie Langenbrunner||New Jersey Devils||24||11||7||18|
|Scott Niedermayer||New Jersey Devils||24||2||16||18|
|Marian Gaborik||Minnesota Wild||18||9||8||17|
|John Madden||New Jersey Devils||24||6||10||16|
|Marian Hossa||Ottawa Senators||18||5||11||16|
|Mike Modano||Dallas Stars||12||5||10||15|
|Jeff Friesen||New Jersey Devils||24||10||4||14|
|Markus Naslund||Vancouver Canucks||14||5||9||14|
|Sergei Zubov||Dallas Stars||12||4||10||14|
|Andrew Brunette||Minnesota Wild||18||7||6||13|
|Wes Walz||Minnesota Wild||18||7||6||13|
The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 2002–03 (listed with their first team):
- Martin Gerber, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
- Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins
- Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres
- Jordan Leopold, Calgary Flames
- Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets
- Steve Ott, Dallas Stars
- Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
- Ales Hemsky, Edmonton Oilers
- Jarret Stoll, Edmonton Oilers
- Jay Bouwmeester, Florida Panthers
- Alexander Frolov, Los Angeles Kings
- Cristobal Huet, Los Angeles Kings
- Joe Corvo, Los Angeles Kings
- Mike Cammalleri, Los Angeles Kings
- Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Minnesota Wild
- Francois Beauchemin, Montreal Canadiens
- Anton Volchenkov, Ottawa Senators
- Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators
- Ray Emery, Ottawa Senators
- Dennis Seidenberg, Philadelphia Flyers
- Jonathan Cheechoo, San Jose Sharks
Last games 
The following is a list of players of note that played their last game in the NHL in 2002–03 (listed with their last team):
- Tom Barrasso, St. Louis Blues
- Pavel Bure, New York Rangers
- Sylvain Côté, Washington Capitals
- Sergei Berezin, Washington Capitals
- Ken Daneyko, New Jersey Devils
- Kevin Dineen, Columbus Blue Jackets
- Theoren Fleury, Chicago Blackhawks
- Todd Gill, Chicago Blackhawks
- Doug Gilmour, Toronto Maple Leafs
- Adam Graves, San Jose Sharks
- Phil Housley, Toronto Maple Leafs
- Kirk Muller, Dallas Stars
- Paul Ranheim, Phoenix Coyotes
- Sylvain Lefebvre, New York Rangers
- Mike Richter, New York Rangers
- Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche
- Dan Snyder, Atlanta Thrashers (death)
2003 trade deadline 
- March 11, 2003: Anaheim traded D Mike Commodore and G Jean-Francois Damphousse to Calgary for C Rob Niedermayer.
- March 11, 2003: Chicago traded D Phil Housley to Toronto for Calgary’s fourth-round pick in the 2003 Entry Draft (if acquired) or Toronto’s ninth-round pick in 2003 and fourth-round pick in 2004.
- March 11, 2003 - Chicago Blackhawks trade Steve Thomas to Mighty Ducks of Anaheim for 2003 fifth round draft pick (Alexei Ivanov).
- March 11, 2003: Edmonton traded RW Anson Carter and D Ales Pisa to NY Rangers for RW Radek Dvorak and D Cory Cross.
- March 11, 2003: Edmonton traded D Janne Niinimaa and a conditional second-round pick in the 2003 Entry Draft to NY Islanders for LW Brad Isbister and LW Raffi Torres.
- March 11, 2003: Florida traded RW Valeri Bure and a conditional pick in the 2004 Entry Draft to St. Louis for D Mike Van Ryn.
- March 11, 2003: Los Angeles traded D Mathieu Schneider to Detroit for C Sean Avery, D Maxim Kuznetsov, Detroit's first-round pick in the 2003 Entry Draft and second-round pick in 2004.
- March 11, 2003: Los Angeles traded C Bryan Smolinski to Ottawa for the rights to D Tim Gleason and future considerations.
- March 11, 2003: Montreal traded C Doug Gilmour to Toronto for Toronto's sixth-round pick in the 2003 Entry Draft.
- March 11, 2003: NY Islanders traded G Chris Osgood and the Islanders' third-round pick in the 2003 Entry Draft to St. Louis for C Justin Papineau and St. Louis' second-round pick in the 2003 Entry Draft.
For complete list, see NHL trade deadline.
Hat tricks 
See also 
- List of Stanley Cup champions
- 2003 Stanley Cup playoffs
- 2002 NHL Entry Draft
- 2002–03 NHL transactions
- 53rd National Hockey League All-Star Game
- NHL All-Star Game
- NHL All-Rookie Team
- 2002 in sports
- 2003 in sports
- Dinger, Ralph, ed. (2011). The National Hockey League Official Guide & Record Book 2012. Toronto, ON: Dan Diamond & Associates. ISBN 978-1-894801-22-5.
- Hockey’s Book of Firsts, p.19, James Duplacey, JG Press, ISBN 978-1-57215-037-9
- "2002–2003 Standings by Conference". National Hockey League. Retrieved March 26, 2012.
- Dinger, Ralph, ed. (2009). The National Hockey League Official Guide & Record Book/2010. Dan Diamond & Associates. p. 163.
- Dinger 2011, p. 156.
- NHL trade deadline: Deals since 1980 | Habs Inside/Out