Devils coach sounds torn

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

RED DEER -- The tantalizing idea of the Alberta civil war turning into a brother vs. brother thing with Darryl Sutter in Calgary and Brent Sutter in Edmonton was still, the columnist allowed himself to believe, possibly in play.

It was two hours before the Oilers would name Pat Quinn their new head coach and three hours before Darryl would name himself provisional head coach of the Flames.

Sitting in his Red Deer Rebels office only blocks from the bar which used to have a Mason-Dixon north-south line painted down the middle of the floor where Edmonton fans sat on one side and Calgary fans on the other, Brent admitted the idea of his ever ending up in Edmonton "would make for good headlines."

No, ahem, headline.

STORY IN WAITING

But today Sutter very much remains a story in waiting as he tries to make up his mind whether to return to fulfil the third year of his contract with the New Jersey Devils or return to Red Deer to run his Western Hockey League team, run his ranch with 400 head near Sylvan Lake and cure the emptiness he's experienced of spending the last two winters away from his family.

And who knows. Maybe Darryl is waiting on him. At his presser, Darryl said he'd be the guy coaching Calgary unless somebody better became available.

"Right now I'm the best one," Darryl said. "All the best coaches in the league are under contract.

"There's three guys who are excellent. I won't tell you who they are, but then I'm fourth."

He didn't say whether he considered Brent a better coach than himself.

You'd think Sutter's decision would be down to days or even hours in fairness to GM Lou Lamoriello, especially if he's going to be having to go out and find a new coach.

"Only Lou and I know what we discussed when I went there," he said of the Devils' boss who had been trying to convince him to take over the team for two years.

"I have so much respect for him, I'm not going to let things hang. There's no timetable. I'm just not 100% sure yet. The other night was the first time I sat down with my wife and kids to talk about it."

Brent doesn't expect anybody to understand.

"It's so hard to explain to people. Coaching is in my blood. But I'm not going to look back on it. Whatever decision I make, it will be the right one," he said.

"I'm so very fortunate to have what I have back here. Not many people have a successful major junior team and a successful ranch.

"This is home for me. This is my roots. When I purchased this team I said that it belongs to the community. I hold myself responsible. I'm the owner of the team. When I played I didn't make the money they're making now.

"Everything I had I put down as collateral for the team. This is something very close to me. To make sure it's done right, can I continue going back to New Jersey?

"I know what's there. It's what's back here. It's about what kind of impact I have back here 3,000 miles away.

"Since I've been gone we've missed the playoffs both years. I have 20 employees and I'm not there to be their leader.

"It's disappointing we haven't been in the playoffs the last two years. But we have a young team with a lot of upside, including an elite player - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - who, at 16 years old might be the (best young) player in hockey. I fully expect the playoffs with another shot at the thing (Memorial Cup) down the road."

WOULDN'T COACH REBELS

Brent said current coach Jesse Wallin doesn't have to worry about his job if he returns.

"If I decide to come back, I have no interest in coming back as head coach. He's a good coach. At the same time, I haven't been here to help him with the process."

But this may be mostly about family.

"It's a critical time for one of my children, Brooke, who is going into Grade 12. I haven't been here for her all through high school. My family doesn't go to New Jersey with me.

"Can I go another year missing everything my daughter is doing in high school? She's a good athlete and I never see her do any of that. I don't feel like I've been the dad I should be."

Maybe we should be interviewing Brooke.


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