He’s staying home.
Brent Sutter tendered his resignation to New Jersey Devils president/GM Lou Lamoriello Tuesday morning and won’t be returning as head coach of the NHL team for a third season.
The Red Deer Rebels president and owner decided that his highest priorities in life are his family, his ranch outside of Sylvan Lake and his Western Hockey League club. He wrestled with the decision for roughly six weeks before making it official.
“I decided to go this way for all of the right reasons,” he said Tuesday afternoon in his office at the Centrium. “I made a big commitment to the New Jersey Devils when I went there — 3,000 miles away — two years ago. During that time I did everything I possibly could to win a Stanley Cup, and yet by doing that it affected other areas of my life back here. It just so happens that those other areas are bigger than the game.”
Sutter grew tired of the term ‘homesick’, which was used in basically every media report regarding his possible departure from the Devils.
“It would be more accurate to say that I missed being part of people’s lives . . . my family. When you weigh it all out you realize you need to be closer to that,” he said.
Sutter is still puzzled as to how the word leaked that he was indeed contemplating leaving the Devils after the 2008-09 season.
“I still don’t know how it got out there and how anybody know what I was thinking, because I’d never talked to anyone about it,” he said. “But it got out there and then people were speculating that with the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames needing coaches, that Brent Sutter would be going back to Alberta and coaching one of those teams.
“But I’ve never had any dialogue with the Edmonton Oilers or the Calgary Flames.”
Of course, Sutter can’t talk to another NHL team unless that club gets permission from Lamoriello, the reason being that he’s still officially under contract to the Devils for another year and perhaps even longer.
“Today was a big day. This was a big decision and I know there are lots of people who felt that the process was delayed for too long,” said Sutter. “But it wasn’t a delayed process at all, it was a matter of myself thinking things through properly. It’s a big decision, a career decision, but there are times in your life when other things have to come ahead of your career, and this is one of those times.
“Is it a permanent thing? I’m not saying that.”
Indeed, Sutter could be back coaching in the NHL as early as next season if the Devils decide to basically waive the remaining year or more on his deal, which has been advertised as three years but is likely longer. Lamoriello does not have the right to ask for compensation in the event that Sutter signs elsewhere before the end of the 2009-10 season, and perhaps beyond.
“The way the contract works, any team still has the ability to contact the New Jersey Devils and ask for permission to talk to me,” said Sutter. “If they Devils give them that permission, then yes, they can talk to me. That’s just the way it works.”
He admitted that he doesn’t anticipate, or expect, that he’ll just be automatically handed his walking papers.
“I’m fully understanding and aware of that, and it’s the right way. Absolutely, I do not expect them to just let me go, but where it goes from here, who knows?”
The most likely scenario, as it stands now, is that Sutter will remain in Red Deer next winter and monitor the operation of his WHL franchise, possibly in the role of, say, general manager.
“I may not want to do anything for a year. I might just be the owner and president (of the Rebels) like I’ve been, and let the other people here just continue to do their jobs,” he said. “I would still oversee things, which I was doing (via telephone and e-mail) while I was in New Jersey, but now I’m right here so it’s different.
“Does that mean that I need to have a different title by my name? I’m not necessarily sure that’s what it means. That’s the next part of the process and won’t be decided until July.”
Lamoriello was hoping that Sutter would return to Jersey, although the outgoing coach insisted there are no ill feelings between himself and the Devils boss.
“Lou is disappointed in the fact that I’m not coming back, but he’s also been very supportive and understanding,” said Sutter. “He knew the circumstances when I signed there, that I was going there on my own.
“He’s supportive of my decision and yet he’s disappointed, too. I understand that, and yet there are times when you have to sit back and take a real hard look at things and say ‘is this really the right thing to do?’ The right thing for me is to be closer to things here.”
Contact Greg Meachem at firstname.lastname@example.org