NHL Saturday kicks off the New Year of 2022 for us here on The Daily McPlay. We’ve worked our way up to the 2003 season of professional hockey in North America, which means we’re getting closer to a dark day in the sport’s history (no spoilers!). But for now, let’s enjoy a fresh, new analysis on January 1.
Let’s get down on it …
2003 Hart: Peter Forsberg (original); Markus Näslund (revised)
Long considered one of the best skaters in the sport, Colorado Avalanche center Peter Forsberg (13.60) won the Hart vote—despite not even being the most valuable skater on his own team. That honor went to right wing Milan Hejduk (14.63), who topped the NHL overall in Point Shares. Since they’re teammates, though, neither can win the Hart in our minds. That honor this year goes to the same guy as last year.
Yep: Vancouver Canucks left wing Markus Näslund (13.52) gets the nod from us, again. The Canucks made the postseason readily, but he was the best skater in the league for value in this season, and he made the difference between Vancouver earning the No. 4 seed in the postseason, instead of the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Näslund topped the NHL in game-winning goals (12) while posting 104 points (48G, 56A) and 52 PIMs overall. He did finish second in the Hart voting, so we’re not off here, but it is surprising still to realize he is a two-time Hart winner in our illuminated corner of the interwebs.
2003 Norris: Nicklas Lidström (original, confirmed)
Detroit Red Wings legend Nicklas Lidström (13.19) was the only blueliner to crack the NHL Top 10 for Point Shares, and he won the Norris vote again as a result. This was the third consecutive season for him to win the Norris vote, but we took the hardware away from him in both 2001 and 2002. With five other defensemen cracking double digits, is it time for Lidström to get his due?
The trailing quintet featured St. Louis Blues veteran Al MacInnis (12.3 PS); Washington Capitals star Sergei Gonchar (11.5); Dallas Stars stalwart Sergei Zubov (11.0); Tampa Bay Lightning youngster Dan Boyle (10.2); and New Jersey Devils rock Scott Niedermayer (10.1). All these teams made the postseason, so which d-man brought the most value?
Generally, all the Western teams and New Jersey cruised into the postseason, while Washington (14 points) and Tampa Bay (15 points) had less margin for error: But those numbers reveal the Caps and the Lightning would have made the playoffs, anyway, so we will confirm Lidström’s award (finally). His numbers—18G, 44A, plus-40 rating, 38 PIMs, and 29:20 ATOI—were all-around stellar.
2003 Vezina: Martin Brodeur (original); Olaf Kölzig (revised)
Six goaltenders cracked the NHL Top 10 for Point Shares, and none of them were Vezina vote winner Martin Brodeur (11.4), the Devils legend. The best six were Florida Panthers phenom Roberto Luongo (14.45); Caps veteran Olaf Kölzig (13.94); Toronto Maple Leafs acquisition Ed Belfour (13.86); Mighty Ducks of Anaheim youngster Jean-Sebastien Giguere (13.47); Columbus Blue Jackets stopgap Marc Denis (13.16); and Avalanche hero Patrick Roy (12.78).
Who is our pick? Florida missed the playoffs, as did Columbus. Meanwhile, New Jersey, Toronto, and Colorado all had plenty of margin for error in earning their postseason berths. This comes down to Kölzig and Giguere: Washington had that 14-point margin, so that’s significant for value, while the Ducks had a 16-point cushion. This means this award should go to Kölzig (again).
Without him, the Caps probably miss Lord Stanley’s Cup chase. His numbers in 66 games were plenty good—33-25-6, 2.37 GAA, .919 S%—and this was the second-highest PS mark of his career, in truth. It’s telling he won the Vezina both times from us.
2003 Calder: Barret Jackman (original, confirmed)
Blues defenseman Barret Jackman (5.4 PS) won the Calder vote, and he also was the top rookie for Point Shares. Who else can we consider for the award, though? Only Red Wings LW Henrik Zetterberg (4.8), Chicago Blackhawks C Tyler Arnason (4.4), and Buffalo Sabres RW Ales Kotalik (4.4). With the Blackhawks and the Sabres missing the postseason, it’s down to Jackman and Zetterberg.
With Detroit finishing 11 points ahead of St. Louis in the Central Division standings, it’s going to make sense to confirm Jackman’s vote win for multiple reasons. His statistical line—19 points, plus-23 rating, and a whopping 190 PIMs—doesn’t stand out, but he clearly had a positive impact on the Blues’ success, despite averaging only 20:03 ice time thanks to all the PIMs.
2003 Conn Smythe: Jean-Sebastien Giguere (original, confirmed)
The Devils topped the Mighty Ducks in seven games to win the Cup Finals, as Anaheim knocked off Detroit and Dallas on its way through the Western Conference playoffs. For his efforts in defeat, Giguere won the Conn Smythe vote (15-6, 1.62 GAA, .945 S%, 5 SOs), as no skater on the losing squad even came close to notching a point a game. Giguere truly carried this team to within a win of the title.
Did anyone on New Jersey’s roster top that? Well, there was Brodeur: 16-7, 1.65 GAA, .934 S%, and 7 SOs. That’s amazing enough on its own to win this award most seasons, even if Giguere was slightly better—with a much worse supporting cast. No Devils skater posted a point a game, either, but the N.J. offense was a lot better than anything Anaheim put on the ice.
We’d almost give this a tie to both goalies if that was our thing, but it’s not: just bad luck for Brodeur to be so good in the same postseason as Giguere posting his insane streak. We therefore confirm the vote.