From his vantage point in the New York Metro Area, Stan Fischler provides his take on the Sutter departure and who may succeed him:
SUTTER'S OUT: WHO'S IN?
Stan Fischler, GAMEON! MSG.com, June 9, 2009
Mercifully – and not a moment too soon – the Brent Sutter Era has ended in New Jersey.
Only Lou Lamoriello knows whose head-coaching Era will be next as guessing runs the gamut from John MacLean to Guy Carbonneau to Peter Laviolette.
During his early afternoon conference call announcing his resignation, Sutter was asked if he thought MacLean was ready to be Devils head coach and shot back, "You bet."
Sutter then added, "I hope that John will be part of the process."
Others note that MacLean has been bypassed before and that the Devils boss has, in the past, leaned toward American-born leaders.
Laviolette, a New Englander like Lou, has a Stanley Cup ring among his credentials.
Leaving two solid – but significantly unfulfilled – seasons behind the Devils' bench, Sutter cited "personal and family" reasons for giving up a job he surely could have had for another year.
He insisted that the fact his brother, Darryl, runs the Calgary Flames and is looking for a head coach had nothing to do with his decision.
"I haven't even thought about it (Calgary) and, besides, they would have to get permission from Lou," Brent explained.
However, there was a slight caveat when Sutter added, "It's like anything else...." Meaning, if someone offered something, one has to listen. Then, he repeated, "It's up to Lou."
Brent stressed that stress was a key part of his thought process, and it all began two years ago when he decided not to bring his family East from his ranch and Junior hockey team in Red Deer, Alberta. Missing family bothered him, but he still wasn't sure what to do once the Devils were eliminated from the playoffs in April.
"This was a big decision," he explained. "So big that I stayed around New Jersey after the season. I wanted to be by myself thinking it over. I wanted to be sure that once I made my move I would never look back."
Speaking from his Red Deer ranch, he noted that last evening was the first that he enjoyed "a good night's sleep" because he now believes he did the right thing.
Sutter: "I had neglected my family and now I'm back to my life here."
Did he consider himself a quitter? Brent was bluntly asked during the conference call.
"I couldn't care less what people say," he shot back. "I know that people here (in Red Deer) would not say that, but the people there (in New Jersey) might."
Sutter praised Lamoriello and Devils co-owner Jeff Vanderbeek for their understanding, but he insisted that he would play no part in helping Lou choose a successor.
"Lou is very intelligent," Brent went on, "and he'll find the right person. And that one will be a better coach than Brent Sutter."
If one judges by regular season success, Sutter did a bang-up job during both seasons behind the bench; especially in 2008-09 when he helped keep the team afloat after Martin Brodeur was sidelined for a good chunk of the season with injury.
"We had fifty-one wins," Sutter remarked, "but our seasons are measured by whether or not we win The Stanley Cup. We never accomplished that."
Each of his two Springs were pockmarked with embarrassment.
The first time around Sutter's club was ousted by the Rangers in the opening round. This year, it appeared that his team was en route to a seventh game win over Carolina in the first round. New Jersey led by a goal down to the dying minutes of the third period when the Canes rallied to tie. Even more depressing, Eric Staal then beat Brodeur for the winner before the clock ran out in regulation time.
In some ways, it was the blackest moment in Devils history, and for that Sutter must share some of the blame. After all, he was making the late-game decisions.
Brent admitted that it was one of the toughest experiences he ever had in hockey, but he also noted that the shocking defeat "had absolutely no" impact on his permanent move away from New Jersey.
Now the spotlight shifts to Lamoriello and his pursuit of a successor. Candidates are aplenty, including Stanley Cup-winners such as Bob Hartley and Marc Crawford, not to mention a dark horse possibility such as Ted Nolan.
Only Lou knows. But the rest of us should know soon enough. Very soon, in fact.