Hardly a Devil of a choice

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:01 AM ET

NEWARK — Brent Sutter is emphatic his decision to leave the New Jersey Devils was difficult.

At the same time, he’ll tell you straight out it was the right thing to do.

Sutter, who served as head coach of the Devils for two seasons before resigning in the summer of 2009 and being hired as Calgary Flames head coach a few weeks later, will return to the Prudential Center for the first time with the Flames when they face his old team Wednesday night.

While his departure with one year remaining on his contract, combined with joining the Flames, has made him the target of some venom from Devils followers, he insisted he resigned for family, business and personal reasons.

“I enjoyed my time in New Jersey in those two years, learned a lot from Lou — Mr. Lamoriello — and I had an opportunity to work for an organization that’s won Stanley Cups,” Sutter said. “But at the end of the day, it wasn’t working out.

“My situation — it was affecting others. I had a decision to make — a tough decision — but it’s not one I regret, at all.”

His family remained in Red Deer during those two seasons, and the time apart put a major strain on him. Plus, Sutter has a ranch and the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels to run.

Being away from all his family, the ranch and the Rebels so much during those two seasons was harming him.

As great as it is to be immersed in hockey, Sutter said he was not taking time to live outside the game.

“There was no getting away from it. When you weren’t at the rink, it was still hockey, hockey, hockey. You never had anything outside of it,” Sutter said. “That’s something I found hard, at times, and

I found it became hard on others around me.”

Sutter and his Flames played host to the Devils last season — a 5-3 Flames win — but this marks his first trip back to The Swamp.

And, of course, he’s cheering for his current club.

“It’s nothing to do with New Jersey,” said Sutter, who wouldn’t divulge the answer to that question. “It’s our team — you always want to win. Maybe to some people outside it’s a bigger game because it’s the New Jersey Devils, but it’s not for me.

“I wasn’t released by the New Jersey Devils. They were supportive right through the end. There’s no acrimony to the Devils, at all.

In fact, he will relish the chance to catch up with old friends, including John MacLean, the Devils head coach who worked with Sutter both of those seasons.

They can also commiserate with each other, since both teams are struggling.

“You focus on your own team, but you know what’s going on,” Sutter said. “Johnny Mac was with me for two years as an assistant, and to see him have an opportunity to be a head coach is a great thing.

I know he’s going through some tough times — we all do — but every team has issues, and it’s how you deal with it.

“I coached a lot of those players, and they’re true pros. There isn’t one guy in that dressing room I don’t have a lot of respect for. They’re good guys — guys that care — and they knew how to play the game.

“Unfortunately, in that second year, things happened the way they did. We lost out to Carolina, but we had a pretty remarkable year. We broke a franchise record for most wins in a season. They were true winners, and a lot of credit goes to how things were inside the organization.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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