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Devils hire Brent Sutter as coach

Friday, 07.13.2007 / 3:37 PM / News

Associated Press

Brent Sutter coached Sidney Crosby and Team Canada to the World Junior Hockey Championship in 2005.
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -Brent Sutter was hired as the coach of the three-time Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils on Friday, taking over one of the NHL's least secure jobs.

The 45-year-old Sutter will be the Devils' 14th coach in 26 seasons in New Jersey, and he will try next season to become the first to finish a season since Pat Burns in 2003-04. Days later, cancer forced Burns to step down.

Sutter insisted that he wasn't aware of the lack of job security with the Devils.

"This is about now and about the direction the organization wants to move forward," Sutter said. "I am happy to be part of that."

Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello, who fired Claude Julien with three games left in the regular season, said that Sutter was his only choice to coach. The two and team owner Jeff Vanderbeek have spoken at time for about three months.

"I believe from the first time we met there was a chemistry as far as philosophy that was extremely similar," said Lamoriello, who refused to disclose details of Sutter's contract.

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A two-time Stanley Cup winner with the New York Islanders in the 1980s and one of six brothers to play in the NHL, Sutter has never coached an NHL team. A strong disciplinarian, he has had success behind the bench.

"There doesn't have to be a tremendous amount of love between the players and their head coach. There has to be a tremendous amount of respect," Sutter said. "I demand respect. I demand hard work. I'll do everything I can and I expect the same thing back from the players."

The Devils won the Atlantic Division title this past season and were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the eventual Eastern Conference champion Ottawa Senators.

Vanderbeek also declined to comment on the contract but he felt Sutter would be with the Devils for a "long, long" time.

That hasn't been the case with recent coaches.

After the 2004-05 lockout season, Larry Robinson lasted half a season before resigning and being replaced by Lamoriello.

Julien got the job last summer and had the Devils in first place when Lamoriello fired him because he didn't like the way the team was playing. Lamoriello again went behind the bench.

Now it's Sutter's turn.

Sutter coached the Red Deer Rebels - a team he owns - to a Western Hockey League title in 2001. His stature as a top NHL coaching prospect was significantly enhanced when he guided Canada to world junior gold in 2005 and 2006.

Sutter resigned as coach and general manager of the Rebels on Thursday, but he retained ownership of the team he bought in 1999.

The hiring will not prevent Sutter from coaching Canada for the Canada-Russia junior showdown that'll run from Aug. 27 through Sept. 9, Lamoriello said.

Lamoriello wooed Sutter after the 2005-06 season, but he opted to remain at Red Deer in Alberta.

"At this point in time, this was the right time," said Sutter, adding he didn't want to leave Red Deer until he was confident the team would continue to flourish. "It's just not the timing there, it's the timing here, too. With the conversation Lou and I had, this is the right fit for Brent Sutter and I'm hoping the right fit for the New Jersey Devils, too."

Sutter will take over a club that lost two of its top players to free agency in recent weeks. Center Scott Gomez signed with the cross-river rival New York Rangers and three-time All-Star defenseman Brian Rafalski signed with Detroit. Both players were members of the Devils' Stanley Cup championship teams in 2000 and 2003. New Jersey won its first Cup in 1995.

Sutter will also face the prospect of coaching his first nine games on the road next season. The Devils are moving into the new Prudential Center in the state's largest city after playing at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J. for the past 25 years.

The new building is in its final stages of construction and the Devils scheduled a long road trip to open the season to avoid a possible problem.

Sutter's brothers Darryl, Brian and Duane all were NHL head coaches.

Brian, who will be replacing Brent in Red Deer, coached at Chicago, Calgary, Boston and St. Louis. Darryl coached Chicago, San Jose and Calgary before becoming the Flames' general manager. Duane coached at Florida.

COACHING RECORD
                                                                            REGULAR SEASON                                 PLAYOFFS
YEAR TEAM LEAGUE CG W L T PTS PCT GC W L PCT
1999-00 Red Deer WHL 72 32 31 9 73 .507 4 0 4 .000
2000-01 Red Deer WHL 72 54 12 6 114 .792 22 16 6 .727
2001-02 Red Deer WHL 72 46 18 8 100 .694 23 14 9 .609
2002-03 Red Deer WHL 72 50 17 5 105 .729 23 14 9 .609
2003-04 Red Deer WHL 72 35 22 15 85 .590 19 10 9 .526
2004-05 Red Deer WHL 72 36 26 10 82 .569 7 3 4 .429
  Canada WJC-A 6 6 0 0            
2005-06 Red Deer WHL 72 26 40 6 58 .403        
  Canada WJC-A 6 6 0 0            
2006-07 Red Deer WHL 72 35 28 9 79 .549 7 3 4 .429
  WHL TOTALS   576 314 194 68 696 .604 105 60 45 .571
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