2003–04 NHL season

2003–04 NHL season

The 2003–04 NHL season was the 87th regular season of the National Hockey League. The thirty teams played 82 games in a revamped format that increased divisional games from 5 to 6 per team (30 total), conference games from 3 to 4 (32 total), and decreased inter-conference games to at least one per team, with three extra games (18 in total). The Stanley Cup winners were the Tampa Bay Lightning, who won the best of seven series 4–3 against the Calgary Flames. This was the first season since the 1969–70 season that teams would wear their dark jerseys at home. For the fourth time in eight years, the all-time record for total shutouts in a season was shattered, as 192 shutouts were recorded. The 2003–04 regular season was also the first one (excluding the lockout-shortened regular season of 1994–95) since 1967–68 in which there was neither a 50-goal scorer, nor a 100-point scorer.

This was the final season that ABC and ESPN televised NHL games. It was also the final NHL season before the 2004–05 NHL lockout, and the final season in which games could end in ties.

Regular season

The 2003–04 season was one overhung by concern over the expiry of the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement. It would lead to a shuttering of the league for the entirety of the next season. During the entire season, Commissioner Gary Bettman and Players Association head Bob Goodenow waged a war of words with no agreement being signed.

On September 26, just before the season was to begin, young Atlanta Thrashers star Dany Heatley crashed his Ferrari in suburban Atlanta. The passenger, Thrashers workhorse Dan Snyder, was killed. Heatley himself was badly injured and eventually charged with vehicular homicide. The entire NHL thus began the season in mourning.

Going into the season the two favorites were the Ottawa Senators in the east, who had won the Presidents' Trophy and come within a win of the Stanley Cup finals the year before; and the Colorado Avalanche in the west, who despite losing legendary goaltender Patrick Roy to retirement, added both Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya to an already star-studded lineup. Neither of these teams was as successful as expected, with Ottawa finishing fifth in the conference and Colorado finishing fourth, losing the Northwest Division title for the first time in a decade.

The greatest disappointments were the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, who, despite making it to game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals the year before and adding Sergei Fedorov and Vaclav Prospal, failed to make the playoffs. In the East the star-studded New York Rangers again failed to make the playoffs. The Washington Capitals, who were regarded as a contender, also stumbled early and never recovered. The end of the season saw two of the most extensive housecleanings in league history as the Rangers and Capitals traded away most of their stars and entered rebuilding mode. The Capitals dumped Jaromir Jagr, Peter Bondra, Sergei Gonchar, Robert Lang, Steve Konowalchuk, and Anson Carter. The Rangers moved Petr Nedved, Brian Leetch, Anson Carter, and Alexei Kovalev.

The most surprising teams were the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference and San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference. The Lightning, who had a remarkable season with only 20 man-games lost to injury, finished atop the Eastern Conference. The Sharks, who were firmly in rebuilding mode after a disastrous 28–37–9–8 campaign the last season, came second in the Western Conference and won the Pacific Division.

Two other teams that did better than expected were carried by surprising young goaltenders. The Calgary Flames ended a seven-year playoff drought backed by the solid play of Miikka Kiprusoff. The Boston Bruins won the Northeast Division by a whisker over the Toronto Maple Leafs with the help of eventual Calder Memorial Trophy winner Andrew Raycroft.

Goaltending was also the story of the Presidents' Trophy-winning Detroit Red Wings as the return from retirement of legend Dominik Hasek bumped Curtis Joseph to the minor leagues. At the same time long time back up Manny Legace put up better numbers than both veterans and won the starting job in the playoffs.

Of note is the fact that the Nashville Predators made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. They put up a valiant effort but were unable to overcome the Hockey Hall of Fame-bound roster of the Red Wings in the first round.

Final standings

" clinched the other four divisions."

" clinched the remaining ten playoff berths."

Numbers in parentheses indicate ranking in conference. Division leaders are automatically ranked 1–3. These three, plus the next five teams in the conference standings, earn playoff berths at the end of the season.


=Eastern Conference=


=Western Conference=

coring leaders

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

Western Conference Quarterfinals

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Conference Semifinals

Eastern Conference Semifinals

Western Conference Semifinals

Conference Finals

Finals

All-Star teams

Debuts

The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 2003–04 (listed with their first team):
*Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
*Alexander Semin, Washington Capitals
*Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes

Last games

The following is a list of players of note that played their last game in the NHL in 2003–04 (listed with their last team):
*Vincent Damphousse, San Jose Sharks
*Ron Francis, Toronto Maple Leafs
*Joé Juneau, Montreal Canadiens
*Mike Keane, Vancouver Canucks
*Trent Klatt, Los Angeles Kings
*Al MacInnis, St. Louis Blues
*Mark Messier, New York Rangers
*Adam Oates, Edmonton Oilers
*James Patrick, Buffalo Sabres
*Scott Stevens, New Jersey Devils

ee also

*List of Stanley Cup champions
*2003 NHL Entry Draft
*54th National Hockey League All-Star Game
*2003–04 NHL transactions
*NHL All-Star Game
*NHL All-Rookie Team
*2003 in sports
*2004 in sports
*Red Mile

References

* [http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/leagues/nhl1927.html Hockey Database]
* [http://www.nhl.com/ NHL Official Website]


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