It was the first season since prior to the 2004-05 NHL lockout in which every team played each other at least once during the season, following three seasons where teams only played against two divisions in the other conference (one division at home and one on the road.)
It began on October 4th with the regular season ending on April 12th.
- 1 League business
- 2 Scheduled events and deadlines
- 3 Regular season
- 4 Playoffs
- 5 NHL awards
- 6 Records
- 7 Milestones
Increase in salary cap
The NHL announced that the regular season salary cap would be going up for the fourth straight season.
The 2008–09 salary cap is being increased by $6,400,000 (US) per team to bring the salary cap up to $56,700,000 (US).
The salary floor is at $40,700,000 (US), which is higher than the salary cap on 2005–06 season.
The NHL brought in a number of rule changes for the start of the 2008–09 NHL season aimed at increasing offence and safety.
The first rule change was to Rule 76.2 on faceoffs.
The first faceoff of a power play will now be in the defending zone of the team that committed the foul, regardless of where the play was stopped.
The second rule dealt with the issue of safety while players are pursuing the puck on a potential icing call.
Rule 81.1 states that:
"Any contact between opposing players while pursuing the puck on an icing must be for the sole purpose of playing the puck and not for eliminating the opponent from playing the puck. Unnecessary or dangerous contact could result in penalties being assessed to the offending player."
The third rule change also dealt with faceoff position: if a puck is shot off the goal frame, goal post or crossbar, the subsequent faceoff will remain in the end zone where the puck went out of play.
Another rule change prohibits TV commercials and any personnel changes immediately after an icing call.
The 2008–09 schedule returns to the pre-lockout schedule.
The new schedule eliminates the three-year rotation where teams would only play teams in two of the three divisions of the opposite conference and instead the new schedule guarantees that each team plays every other team at least once.
In the new schedule, each team will play their divisional rivals six times for a total of 24 games.
They will play all other conference teams four times for a total of 40 games and will play every team in the opposite conference at least once for a total of 15 games.
To obtain a total of 82 games there are an additional three-wild card games; for the Canadian teams, the three-wild card games are composed of playing the three Canadian teams in the opposite conference an additional time.
The regular season started with four games played in Europe.
The New York Rangers represented the NHL in the 2008 Victoria Cup challenge game as part of the club's pre-season schedule.
The four teams also played some pre-season exhibition games in Europe.
Other than the four overseas regular season games starting October 4th, the actual first day of regular season games was October 9th as far as widespread continental North American broadcast from most providers (including pay-per-view hockey packages).
Other teams still played preseason games between October 4th and 6th.
By February 23, 2009, all four teams who started the season in Europe had fired their coaches.
Due to the success of the 2008 NHL Winter Classic, another outdoor game was held in the 2008–09 NHL season.
While Yankee Stadium was considered an early favorite, in a game to be hosted by the Rangers, cold-weather issues involving the old stadium put that location out of the mix.
Another site considered was Beaver Stadium at Pennsylvania State University with that game to likely involve the Penguins and the Flyers.
On May 29, 2008, The Sports Network reported that the 2009 NHL Winter Classic would be held in Chicago, Illinois on January 1, 2009 between the Chicago Blackhawks and defending champion Detroit Red Wings.
Soldier Field was considered an early candidate, but the National Football League (NFL)'s Chicago Bears objected, citing a possible home game for the NFL playoffs that weekend (January 3-4). Ironically, the Bears ended up being eliminated from contention in the last week.
It was decided that the game would be played at Wrigley Field (the North Side home of the Chicago Cubs) as confirmed by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on July 6th.
Ten days afterward, the NHL confirmed the reports that the game would officially be held on New Year's Day. The Red Wings won the game 6-4.
The NHL and National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) agreed to move the trade deadline from Tuesday, March 3, 2009 to Wednesday, March 4, 2009.
This was done mainly because the schedule has twelve games on March 3rd and only two on March 4th.
General Managers' Meeting
At the meeting (held in Naples, Florida from March 9–11, 2009), general managers of the teams discussed issues that concerned them.
Consensus on any topic would lead to action by the Board of Governors or the Competition committee in later meetings.
Paul Kelly (the president of the NHLPA) made a presentation on the topic of dangerous hits to the head, proposing new rules to penalize intentional hits.
The general managers could not agree on the planned rule change and took no further action.
Kelly intends to review the issue at the future Competition committee meeting, which is held after the Stanley Cup final.
The general managers also discussed the topic of fighting in hockey and agreed to penalize further players who start fights directly after face-offs and to further enforce the existing "instigator" rule.
Scheduled events and deadlines
The Christmas holiday roster freeze went into effect on December 19, 2008, and ended on December 27, 2008.
No regular-season games were held during the NHL All-Star break from January 22nd to January 26th.
During the break, the NHL held its annual All-Star Game and the SuperSkills Competition in Montreal, Quebec.
The trade deadline was March 4th at 3 PM EST. The most notable trade was between the Phoenix Coyotes and Calgary Flames sending Olli Jokinen to Calgary, but there were fewer trades than at previous deadlines.
On Saturday, October 25, the NHL scheduled fifteen games—with all 30 teams playing—for the second time in league history.
First, Campoli retrieved a loose puck and fired a shot past the Jackets' goaltender Fredrik Norrena.
The shot went through the net and while Campoli celebrated, the game continued. Campoli then received a pass in front of the goal and shot the puck again into the net.
Head coach Barry Melrose of the Tampa Bay Lightning would record his first win as a head coach in over 13 years on October 21, 2008, with a 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers, however, the Lightning did not get off to a great start as hoped and Melrose was fired by the Lightning with a 5-7-4 record.
Rick Tocchet (who had been hired as assistant coach during the previous offseason) was promoted to interim head coach. Melrose subsequently re-signed with broadcaster ESPN.
Melrose proceeded to get into a war of words with the Lightning management, accusing the management of interference during an interview on a Toronto radio station.
During the annual December board of governors' meeting, the issue of the state of the economy was raised.
The Phoenix Coyotes were reported to lose up to $35 million on the 2008–09 season.
When asked to comment on Phoenix's loss, Commissioner Gary Bettman was quoted as saying: "They're going to get through the season just fine."
The Buffalo Sabres (while not for sale) had been approached for purchase.
On December 14, 2008, the Stars' management announced that he would not be returning to the team.
He was placed on re-entry waivers and was claimed by the New York Rangers, (his team back in 2007–08)
On December 23, 2008 the Toronto Globe and Mail reported that the Phoenix Coyotes team is receiving financial assistance from the league in the form of advances on league revenues.
The Coyotes have pledged all of their assets to New York company SOF Investments LP to cover an estimated debt of $80 million.
The team has lost an estimated $200 million since 2001 and may lose $30 million this season.
One of the team's owners, Jerry Moyes' principal source of revenue, Swift Transportation is also in financial difficulty.
In February of 2009, three head coaches were relieved from their duties.
On February 1, 2009 Craig Hartsburg was fired as head coach of the Ottawa Senators following a 17-24-7 start to the season and was immediately replaced by Binghamton Senators head coach Cory Clouston.
On February 15, 2009, Dan Bylsma of the American Hockey League's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins was promoted to replace Michel Therrien of the Pittsburgh Penguins as interim head coach. Dan would later be announced as a permanent head coach of the team.
On February 23, 2009, the New York Rangers fired Tom Renney following an overtime loss and was replaced on the same day by The Sports Network analyst and former Tampa Bay Lightning head coach, John Tortorella.
When the Montreal Canadiens were in danger of being eliminated from the playoffs, head coach Guy Carbonneau was also fired.
In April, the Columbus Blue Jackets qualified for the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The Carolina Hurricanes qualified for the playoffs for the first time since their 2006 Stanley Cup victory. The Ottawa Senators missed the playoffs for the first time in twelve seasons.
In an ironic twist, considering his injury woes of past seasons, Jordan Leopold played in all 64 games for the Colorado Avalanche.
Upon being traded to the Calgary Flames, Leopold played in all 19 remaining games for the Flames becoming the only NHL player to play 83 games of the 82 game 2008-2009 season.
On April 11, 2009, the Minnesota Wild's first head coach Jacques Lemaire was fired after missing the playoffs.
In May of 2009, it was revealed that the NHL had taken control of the Phoenix Coyotes from the start of the season and they had known of the financial difficulties of the team prior to the start of the 2008–09 season.
After owner Jerry Moyes petitioned the club into bankruptcy against the league's wishes, so as to sell the team to Jim Balsillie who plans to move the team to Hamilton, Ontario, the league challenged the right of Moyes to file for bankruptcy.
In the documents filed with the Phoenix bankruptcy court, the NHL stated that the league took official control of the team on November 14, 2008.
The league then began advancing money to the club from league revenues, and made a loan to the club in February 2009, for a combined estimated total of $44.5 million over the full season.
During the season, commissioner Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly had made a series of denials and obfuscations while firing the Coyotes CEO and laying off 18 Coyotes employees.
Moyes' documents filed with the court indicated that the team had lost $73 million over the last three years, and that the projected loss was $45 million for 2008–09.
On June 3, 2009, Tony Granato was fired as the head coach of the Colorado Avalanche.
The next day, he was replaced by Joe Sacco, head coach of the Avs' top minor league affiliate the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League (AHL).
Marc Crawford was named the new head coach for the 2009-10 season the next day.
In the event of a tie in points in the standings at the end of the season, ties are broken using the following The higher ranked team is the one with:
- The greater number of games won.
- The greater number of points earned in games between the tied clubs.
- The greater differential between goals for and against for the entire regular season.
GP = Games played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; +/– = Plus/Minus; PIM = Penalty Minutes
|Evgeni Malkin||Pittsburgh Penguins||82||35||78||113||+17||80|
|Alexander Ovechkin||Washington Capitals||79||56||54||110||+8||72|
|Sidney Crosby||Pittsburgh Penguins||76||33||70||103||+3||76|
|Pavel Datsyuk||Detroit Red Wings||81||32||65||97||+34||22|
|Zach Parise||New Jersey Devils||82||45||49||94||+30||24|
|Ilya Kovalchuk||Atlanta Thrashers||79||43||48||91||-12||50|
|Ryan Getzlaf||Anaheim Ducks||81||25||66||91||+5||121|
|Jarome Iginla||Calgary Flames||81||35||54||89||-2||37|
|Marc Savard||Boston Bruins||82||25||63||88||+25||70|
|Nicklas Backstrom||Washington Capitals||82||22||66||88||+16||46|
GP = Games Played; TOI = Time On Ice (minutes); W = Wins; L = Losses; OT = Overtime/Shootout Losses; GA = Goals Against; SO = Shutouts; Sv% = Save Percentage; GAA = Goals Against Average
|Tim Thomas||Boston Bruins||54||3,258:49||36||11||7||114||5||.933||2.10|
|Steve Mason||Columbus Blue Jackets||60||3,604:58||33||19||7||135||10||.917||2.25|
|Niklas Backstrom||Minnesota Wild||71||4,088:03||37||24||8||159||8||.923||2.33|
|Jonas Hiller||Anaheim Ducks||45||2,446:26||23||15||1||95||4||.920||2.33|
|Roberto Luongo||Vancouver Canucks||54||3,181:05||33||13||7||124||9||.920||2.34|
|Pekka Rinne||Nashville Predators||52||2,999:12||29||15||4||119||7||.917||2.38|
|Nikolai Khabibulin||Chicago Blackhawks||41||2,407:15||24||8||7||96||2||.917||2.39|
|Scott Clemmensen||New Jersey Devils||40||2,355:56||25||13||1||94||2||.917||2.39|
|Evgeni Nabokov||San Jose Sharks||61||3,627:35||41||11||8||146||7||.911||2.41|
|Henrik Lundqvist||New York Rangers||69||4,092:46||37||25||7||165||3||.916||2.42|
Division champions maintain their relative ranking during the entire playoffs while the remaining teams get reseeded below them after each round.
- Boston Bruins – Northeast Division and Eastern Conference regular season champions, 116 points
- Washington Capitals – Southeast Division champions, 108 points
- New Jersey Devils – Atlantic Division champions, 106 points
- Pittsburgh Penguins – 99 points (45 wins)
- Philadelphia Flyers – 99 points (44 wins)
- Carolina Hurricanes – 97 points
- New York Rangers – 95 points
- Montreal Canadiens – 93 points*
*Montreal finished with exactly the same record as the Florida Panthers (including number of wins), but garnered more points (the Canadiens with six, the Panthers with three) in the four game season series between them, to earn the 8th spot.
- San Jose Sharks – Pacific Division champions and Western Conference regular season champions; President's Trophy winners, 117 points
- Detroit Red Wings – Central Division champions, 112 points
- Vancouver Canucks – Northwest Division champions, 100 points
- Chicago Blackhawks – 104 points
- Calgary Flames – 98 points
- St. Louis Blues – 92 points (10 points head-to-head)
- Columbus Blue Jackets – 92 points (3 points head-to-head)
- Anaheim Ducks – 91 points
NHL All Star Team
First All-Star Team
- Forwards: Alexander Ovechkin • Evgeni Malkin • Jarome Iginla
- Defencemen: Mike Green • Zdeno Chára
- Goaltender: Tim Thomas
Second All-Star Team
- Forwards: Zach Parise • Pavel Datsyuk • Marian Hossa
- Defencemen: Nicklas Lidstrom • Dan Boyle
- Goaltender: Steve Mason
NHL All-Rookie team
- Forwards: Patrik Berglund • Kris Versteeg • Bobby Ryan
- Defencemen: Drew Doughty • Luke Schenn
- Goaltender: Steve Mason
- February 14, 2009 - Mike Green, defenseman with the Washington Capitals, scored in eight consecutive games to set a new NHL record for a defenseman.
- February 15, 2009 - Mike Richards, center with the Philadelphia Flyers, became the first player in NHL history to score three career 3-on-5 shorthanded goals when he beat New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist in a 5–2 win
- March 12, 2009 - Henrik Lundqvist, goaltender with the New York Rangers, became the first goaltender in NHL history to win 30 games in each of his first four seasons.
- March 17, 2009 - Martin Brodeur, goaltender with the New Jersey Devils, won his 552nd game, surpassing Patrick Roy for the all time wins record.
- April 8, 2009 - Curtis Joseph, goaltender with the Toronto Maple Leafs, lost his 352nd game, tying Gump Worsley for most losses by a goaltender.
- June 12, 2009 - Sidney Crosby becomes the youngest Captain in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup.
- June 12, 2009 - Evgeni Malkin becomes the first Russian player in NHL history to win the Conn Smythe.
The following is a list of players of note that played their first NHL game in 2008–09, listed with their first team:
- Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets
- Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
- Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
- Matt Hendricks, Colorado Avalanche
- Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
- T.J. Oshie, St. Louis Blues
The following is a list of players of note that played their last NHL game in 2008–09, listed with their last team:
- Patrice Brisebois, Montreal Canadiens]]
- Sergei Fedorov, Washington Capitals
- Bret Hedican, Anaheim Ducks
- Bobby Holik, New Jersey Devils
- Curtis Joseph, Toronto Maple Leafs
- Olaf Kolzig, Tampa Bay Lightning
- Claude Lemieux, San Jose Sharks
- Markus Naslund, New York Rangers
- Teppo Numminen, Buffalo Sabres
- Michael Peca, Columbus Blue Jackets
- Luke Richardson, Ottawa Senators
- Gary Roberts, Tampa Bay Lightning
- Jeremy Roenick, San Jose Sharks
- Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche
- Brendan Shanahan, New Jersey Devils
- Mike Sillinger, New York Islanders
- Jason Smith, Ottawa Senators
- Mats Sundin, Vancouver Canucks
- Sergei Zubov, Dallas Stars