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Sutter steps down from behind the bench

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Sutter leaves the Devils after two seasons. – Brent Sutter announced that he has stepped down from behind the Devils' bench for personal and family reasons.

"My decision is that I have officially resigned as head coach of the New Jersey Devils effective today," Sutter said Tuesday via conference call.

"It has to do with a lot of things back here in Red Deer (Alberta)," Sutter said. "There are circumstances that have occurred especially over the last year that have made it increasingly more difficult. I have to do the right thing, and the right thing was to step back and evaluate everything and go through a process that I had to go through. The decision came down to what it is."

Sutter has owned the Western Hockey League's Red Deer Rebels since 1999, and serves as the club's President and Governor. He coached the Rebels to their first-ever league championship in 2001, as well as three consecutive WHL Eastern Conference titles from 2001 to 2003.

"I'm getting back to my life here," he said. "I've been in the office on a daily basis here and have been working between here and my ranch and spending some time with my family. I've been getting back to my life here that I've neglected somewhat over the last couple of years."

Sutter was named the Devils’ head coach on July 13, 2007. He compiled a regular-season record of 97-56-11 (.625) in 164 contests and a 4-8 record (.333) in 12 playoff games. Sutter led New Jersey to two consecutive playoff appearances, as well as the 2008-09 Atlantic Division Championship.

Sutter collected the third most wins by a head coach in franchise history behind Jacques Lemaire (199) and Doug Carpenter (100). 

The Devils were 51-27-4 (106 pts.) during the '08-09 regular season, but came up short to Carolina in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, when they allowed two goals in the final 1:20 of regulation. Sutter said that this year's painful playoff exit did not factor into his decision.

"It has nothing to do with any of that," he said. "There's times in life where you have to sit back and evaluate some things and prioritize some things. Family has to become a big part of that, and other things that are going on in your life. This is the decision that I've made."

That decision wasn't an easy one for Sutter.

"I stayed around New Jersey for quite some time after (the season) just to be by myself and think things through properly before I came back (to Red Deer)," he said. "Then I came back and spent time with family and spent time at the office with the people there and evaluated everything at the Rebels."

Sutter continued: "I just wanted to make sure that I never looked back on it and regretted it. The decision is what it is, and I don't regret it. It's the right thing to do. To be quite honest, I had a decent sleep last night for the first time in seven weeks."

Sutter thanked Devils President/CEO/General Manager Lou Lamoriello.

"Lou was very respectful and he was very supportive through the whole process," Sutter said. "No one knows what I have back here (in Red Deer) – only he does. He's seen it, he understands. And that's why there was such a great understanding going into this when I took the position here. He sees what's here and sees everything that involves my life here.

"At this point in time, what I'm doing is the right thing to do, and Lou's been very supportive. That's another reason why I have such a tremendous amount of respect for him."

The Devils made a seven-point improvement during Sutter's two-season tenure, and he believes the team is headed in the right direction.

Zach Parise notched a career-high 45 goals and 94 points, while players such as captain Jamie Langenbrunner, Travis Zajac, David Clarkson, and Johnny Oduya enjoyed career years. Despite losing Martin Brodeur to injury for 50 games, the Devils were contenders for the Eastern Conference top spot during much of the second half.

"I think the Devils' future is great," Sutter said. "To me it's not about one person, it's still about the program in place and the structure that's within that program. It's in great hands there. It's always been that way and that's what's so unique about the New Jersey Devils, is the culture there."

Sutter continued: "Things always seem to work well and work out right when you have great, great people, and they certainly have that there. It's in great hands."

Now the Devils must look toward naming Sutter's replacement.

Said Sutter: "Lou's going to go find a new coach, and that coach will be a better coach than Brent Sutter."

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