Samiksha Jaiswal (Editor)

2002–03 NHL season

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
League  National Hockey League
Number of teams  30
Champion  New Jersey Devils
Top scorer  Peter Forsberg
Sport  Ice hockey
Presidents' Trophy  Ottawa Senators
Dates  9 Oct 2002 – 9 Jun 2003
Number of games  82
Duration  October 9, 2002 – June 9, 2003
Season MVP  Peter Forsberg, Colorado Avalanche
Goals  Teemu Selänne, Patrick Marleau, Marco Sturm, Olli Jokinen, Richard Zedník, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Brett Hull
Coaches  Andy Murray, Darryl Sutter, Cap Raeder, Ron Wilson
Similar  2003–04 NHL season, 2005–06 NHL season, 2006–07 NHL season, 2004–05 NHL season, 1993–94 NHL season

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, winning their first 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—and with the abolition of ties two years later, the only—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 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.

The season was marked by a great number of coaches being fired, from Bob Hartley in Colorado to Darryl Sutter in San Jose and Bryan Trottier of the New York Rangers.

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

Divisions: AT – Atlantic, NE – Northeast, SE – Southeast

P- Clinched Presidents Trophy; Y- Clinched Division; X- Clinched Playoff spot

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.

Divisions: PA – Pacific, CE – Central, NW – Northwest

Z- Clinched Conference; Y- Clinched Division; X- Clinched Playoff spot

Source: McCarthy, Dave, ed. (2009). NHL Official Guide and Record Book 2009. NHL. p. 156. 


Note: All dates in 2003.

The 2003 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.

Playoff bracket

  • 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.
  • Awards

    The NHL Awards presentation took place in Toronto.

    Scoring leaders

    Note: GP = Games Played, G = Goals, A = Assists, Pts = Points

    Source: NHL.

    Leading goaltenders

    Note: GP = Games played; Min - Minutes Played; GA = Goals Against; GAA = Goals Against Average; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; SO = Shutouts

    Scoring leaders

    Note: GP = Games Played, G = Goals, A = Assists, Pts = Points


    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
  • Matt Stajan, Toronto Maple Leafs
  • Last games

    The following is a list of players of note who played their last NHL game in 2002–03, listed with their team:

    2003 trade deadline

    Trading deadline: March 11, 2003. Here is a list of major trades for the 2002-03 NHL 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.


    2002–03 NHL season Wikipedia