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Sutter resigns head coaching job with Devils

by John McGourty
New Jersey Devils coach Brent Sutter resigned Tuesday after two seasons to spend more time with his family and the Western Hockey League team he owns in Red Deer, Alberta.

"My decision is that I have officially resigned as head coach of the New Jersey Devils effective today," Sutter said in a conference call from his office with the WHL's Red Deer Rebels. "My life has suffered in other areas and those areas are bigger than the game," he said.

Sutter has owned the Rebels since 1999 and remains the team's president and governor. He previously served as coach and general manager, resigning those jobs to take over the Devils on July 13, 2007.

"It has to do with a lot of reasons right here in Red Deer that have occurred over the last year than have made it increasingly difficult," Sutter said. "I have to do the right thing and the right thing was to step back and go through a process. The decision came down to what it is.

"I'm getting back to my life here as far as being in the (Rebels') office on a daily basis, and between the farm and spending some time with my family, which I fear that I've neglected somewhat over the last two years."

Sutter had been telling reporters since midseason that he would make a decision this summer whether to return as Devils coach. His family had remained in Red Deer during his tenure in New Jersey.

Sutter praised the Devils' organization, his players in New Jersey and team president, chief executive officer and GM Lou Lamoriello.

"The New Jersey Devils, I have nothing but a tremendous amount of respect for them, from top to bottom," Sutter said. "Mr. Lamoriello, I respect him so, so much, as well as the ownership. And the players were great, the whole organization, coaches, coaching staff, trainers, doctors -- I could go through everybody. It had nothing to do with the team.

"There are times in life when you have to evaluate things and prioritize things and my family has to be a big part of that, and the other things going on around your life. I've done that and this is the decision I have made."

The resignation could clear the way for Sutter to become coach of the Calgary Flames, where his brother, Darryl, is the general manager. The Flames fired coach Mike Keenan last month and no replacement has been named.

Brent Sutter said the vacancy in Calgary had no influence on his decision.
"It has to do with a lot of reasons right here in Red Deer that have occurred over the last year than have made it increasingly difficult. I have to do the right thing and the right thing was to step back and go through a process. The decision came down to what it is." -- Brent Sutter
"That has zero impact at all on my decision-making here," Sutter said. "Zero. None. There have been all these rumors, even before Edmonton named their coaching staff. It's about an hour and 15 minutes from my ranch to both those places (Edmonton and Calgary). It's totally irrelevant. Everyone needs to know that."

Sutter had a year remaining on his contract. He said that if any other NHL team wants to discuss a job with him, they need to get permission from the Devils.

He refused to answer a question about the resolution of his contract.

"The contract is between Lou and I," he said, adding that he will have no official duties with the Devils but would help Lamoriello in any way he could, if asked.

"I think the Devils' future is great," Sutter said. "It's not about one person; it's about the structure in place. It's in great hands there. It's always been that way and that's what is so unique about the New Jersey Devils and it has always been there. ... Things work out right when you have great people and they certainly have that there."

Sutter said he won't be involved in selecting his successor, but said assistant coach John MacLean is "more than capable."

Sutter had a record of 97-56-11 with the Devils. They were the Atlantic Division champions this season, after posting a 51-27-4 record for 106 points, the NHL's fifth-best regular-season record. The Devils were second to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Atlantic in 2007-08.

However, both seasons ended in first-round Stanley Cup Playoff losses. The Devils were eliminated in five games by the New York Rangers in 2008, and they blew a 3-2 series lead this year in losing to the Carolina Hurricanes. Not only did the Devils lose Games 6 and 7, but they held a 3-2 lead at home with 80 seconds left in Game 7 and surrendered two goals. Eric Staal's goal at 19:28 of the third period was the latest regulation-time game-winning goal in a Game 7 in Stanley Cup Playoff history.

Sutter said the defeat had no bearing on his decision, but that's why he gave himself sufficient time to make his decision, saying he feels differently about it now than he did seven weeks ago. He also said he remained in New Jersey for several weeks to be alone while making his decision.

Sutter was asked if he's afraid some people are going to say he is a quitter.

"You should fly out here and see what's here," he said. "People out here aren't going to say (I quit) because they know what I have here. I don't look at it like I'm quitting on anything. I was 2,000 miles from where my life was." 

Sutter has owned the Rebels since May 1999, and led them to the 2001 Memorial Cup. Cam Ward, Dion Phaneuf, Jim Vandermeer, Colby Armstrong, Jeff Woywitka and Boyd Gordon played for Sutter before going on to NHL careers.

Brian Sutter, the oldest of the six Sutter brothers to play in the NHL, replaced Brent in 2007-08; this year, Jesse Wallin coached the team, which finished 11th in the 12-team Eastern Conference.

Brent Sutter's New Jersey coaching career

Regular Season
  Gms. W-L-O/T Pts. Pct.
2007-08 82 46-29-7 99 .604 2nd/Atlantic
2008-09 82 51-27-4 106 .646 1st/Atlantic
Totals 164 97-56-11 205 .625  
  Gms. W-L Pct. Finish
2007-08 5 1-4 .200 lost Conf. Quarterfinals 
2008-09  7 3-4 .429 lost Conf. Quarterfinals 
Totals 12 4-8 .333   

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