Sutter can return as junior coach if he wishes

JIM CRESSMAN, Free Press Sports Reporter

, Last Updated: 11:52 AM ET

London Knights centre David Bolland is improving his chances of being with the Canadian junior team next Christmas with his performance in the OHL playoffs.

But who will select the 2006 team remains up in the air.

Bolland, who will be 19 when the world junior championship opens in Vancouver, was one of the last cuts from the 2005 team that won the gold in Grand Forks, N.D.

Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson said yesterday the job is Brent Sutter's if he chooses to return.

Sutter, owner, general manager and coach of the Western Hockey League's Red Deer Rebels, guided the Canadian juniors to their first championship in eight years.

Reached in Red Deer, Alta., Sutter said he hasn't decided what he is going to do.

Interviews are scheduled May 21-29 during the Memorial Cup in London.

"I'm not saying I wouldn't. I just need some time to think about it," Sutter said.

Canada might not have one returning player for the 2006 team if the NHL is back in business by then.

"I know I certainly wouldn't turn my back on it for that reason," Sutter said. "Challenges are always great."

Nicholson said Sutter "would be the leading candidate going in, but we wouldn't just hand it to him," meaning he would still have to go through the interview process.

OHL commissioner David Branch, also president of the Canadian Hockey League and on the national junior team's advisory committee, was to the point during last night's playoff game between the Knights and Kitchener Rangers: "We feel it would be in order to give Brent that opportunity to coach if he would chose to exercise it."

Rangers coach-GM Peter DeBoer was an assistant with the juniors, as was Kingston Frontenacs coach Jim Hulton.

Hulton has said he won't apply while DeBoer is undecided.

DeBoer said the junior team "is a big commitment with three young kids at home. Seeing daddy through the TV screen at Christmas doesn't really cut it."

DeBoer is also high on the Toronto Maple Leafs' short list to coach of their American Hockey League farm team next season when it moves to Toronto from St. John's, Nfld.

DeBoer, who turned down an opportunity to interview for that job two years ago, said he hasn't spoken with the Leafs.

Nicholson would like to have all three coaches back on the bench in Vancouver.

"We have a couple of good candidates who have submitted their names," Nicholson said. "But as moving forward, we would start with Brent, Pete and Jim."


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