NHL Saturday is back to bring you the last season of professional hockey in North America before that disastrous year when the sport canceled itself. Yes, it’s 2004 time! It was an interesting year, too, as a newer expansion team from the Deep South actually won the Stanley Cup, signifying a major shift in the game’s geographical center.
Drop the puck!
2004 Hart: Martin St. Louis (original), Jerome Iginla (revised)
Only two forwards finished in the Top 10 for Point Shares this season: Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis (13.20) and New Jersey Devils left wing Patrick Elias (11.84). We can go a little deeper, too, to include Vancouver Canucks LW Markus Näslund (11.4) and Calgary Flames RW Jarome Iginla (11.1). St. Louis won the vote at the time, and Näslund has won the last two nods from us here.
Drilling down now, we see Tampa Bay had a 21-point playoff cushion, while New Jersey had a 15-point margin. As for the Canucks, they had just 12 points to spare, while the Flames squeaked into the postseason by just 5 points. This really makes this sort of a no-brainer decision for Iginla, all things considered. Calgary is golfing in April if not for his contributions to the team’s success.
His numbers: He topped the league in goals (41) and game-winning goals (10). His plus-21 rating on a team that outscored its opponents by only 24 goals is nice; Iginla also posted 84 PIMs, as he did finish second at the time in the Hart voting. We just see more value here for him than the others, although obviously Näslund came pretty close to a three-peat effort here.
2004 Norris: Scott Niedermayer (original), Chris Pronger (revised)
Devils blueline veteran Scott Niedermayer (11.98) was the only defenseman in the Top 10 for PS, although Toronto Maple Leafs journeyman Bryan McCabe (10.9), St. Louis Blues star Chris Pronger (10.8), Ottawa Senators giant Zdeno Chara (10.3), and New York Islanders stalwart Adrian Aucoin (10.3) also factor in here. Niedermayer did win the vote, so we will see how it all shakes out.
We know the Devils cruised into the playoffs; the Leafs did as well, by 18 points. Meanwhile, the Blues only made it by 2 points in the other conference, instantly magnifying Pronger’s value here. The Sens finished 1 point behind Toronto, and the Isles had 6 points to spare as they claimed the final postseason berth in the Eastern Conference. That means Pronger wins his second nod from us here.
The stat line—14G, 40A, 88 PIMs—is modest, but he was also a Top 5 skater in Defensive PS. Without Pronger, St. Louis also is not skating into late April. The Blues were outscored by 7 goals on the season as a whole, and Pronger finished with a minus-1 rating, so it’s clear he was doing more than his share to get his team into the Stanley Cup tournament.
2004 Vezina: Martin Brodeur (original); Jose Theodore (revised)
This was a goaltender era as seven goalies finished in the Top 10 for Point Shares: Florida Panthers phenom Roberto Luongo (20.85), Columbus Blue Jackets starter Marc Denis (13.64), Montréal Canadiens veteran Jose Theodore (13.23), Colorado Avalanche youngster David Aebischer (13.09), Boston Bruins upstart Andrew Raycroft (12.56), Devils legend Martin Brodeur (12.51), and San Jose Sharks star Evgeni Nabokov (11.78).
Brodeur won the vote; we know New Jersey made it to the playoffs, easily, though. The Panthers missed the postseason by 16 points, so Luongo’s incredible value is severely muted there. Columbus missed the playoffs by a mile; the Habs made it by 8 points, so Theodore looks good right now. The Avs had 11 points to spare, while the Bruins made it by 19 points. San Jose had a 15-point cushion.
This award go to Theodore: He also won this trophy from us in 2002. The numbers this time out tell a good story: 33-28-5, 2.27 GAA, .919 S%, and 6 shutouts. Montréal grabbed the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference by 2 points ahead of the Isles. At age 27, Theodore was just entering his prime.
2004 Calder: Andrew Raycroft (original, confirmed)
Calder vote winner Raycroft was a candidate for the Vezina, and no other rookie posted more than 8.1 PS, so this is an easy award to confirm. His numbers—29-18-9, 2.05, .926, 3 SOs—definitely helped the Bruins squeak out the Atlantic Division title by 1 point over Toronto and 2 points over Ottawa. We like that kind of pressure performance from rookies—or any player, really!
2004 Conn Smythe: Brad Richards (original), Miikka Kiprusoff (revised)
The Lightning topped the Flames in 7 games to win the Stanley Cup, and Tampa Bay center Brad Richards (26 points in 23 games) won the Conn Smythe vote. His linemate, St. Louis, also posted 24 points in 23 games, so it’s hard for us to just accept Richards’ official nod here. Who else can we consider? Well, Lightning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (16-7, 1.71, .933, 5 SOs) for one.
We think that effort is more impressive than either skater’s stat line. And with no Calgary skater posting a point per game, the only Flames player worth considering is netminder Miikka Kiprusoff (15-11, 1.85, .928, 5 SOs). He had less offense to work with, and he was clearly the primary reason Calgary—the No. 6 seed out West—found itself in the Stanley Cup Finals just one win from the NHL title.
Game 7 was a 2-1 affair that the home team dominated, but the fact the Flames were in it down to the final seconds says a lot about Kiprusoff—especially when Calgary could only muster 60 goals in 26 playoff games. We are going to give this award to the Flames goaltender, because he carried a team all the way, while Khabibulin had a bit more to work with in terms of an offensive cushion.