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Calgary coach Sutter has Devils owner up in flames

Mar 5, 2010, 9:15 AM EDT

The Devils take on the Flames tonight in Calgary at 9:00 p.m. EST.

Here’s a head-scratcher of a scenario.

New Jersey Devils coach Brent Sutter resigns as coach just a week after a game 7 loss in the playoffs, citing his need to be back with his family, the grueling coaching schedule and his desire to spend more time with the junior hockey team as the reasons for leaving. Then two weeks later, he’s named as head coach of the Calgary Flames.

It just so happens that his brother, Darryl, is the team’s general manager. It’s just coincidence that the entire hockey world knew that Darryl and the Flames wanted Brent as the next coach. And it’s just coincidence that Sutter became the coach of the Flames, almost instantly. Right? Brent Sutter says it is.

“It [coaching in New Jersey] became difficult because of
other people,
people more important than the game. Did I expect to be in Calgary after
I resigned? No, I did not,” Sutter told The Post.

“It doesn’t
bother me because there was no truth to it. I know what took
place. People can have opinions. Am I going to fight that? No,” Sutter
said. “When I left New Jersey I was perfectly fine going back to the
farm and helping out with the [Red Deer Rebels] junior team. That’s what
I was going to do.”

Of course, his
sentiments are not exactly shared by the new New Jersey Devils,
especially owner Jeff Venderbeek. When Sutter resigned, the Devils and
their former coach had agreed that it would be best for Sutter to go
back home to be with his family and his junior team in Red Deer. But
when he joined up with the Flames,
it caught Vanderbeek off guard.

“Yes, it puts a
different light on things,” Vanderbeek told the
Star-Ledger. “It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”

“All of the
conversations we had throughout the year with Brent had been
regarding his family, them not moving here, about Red Deer and changes
he was contemplating back there,” Vanderbeek told the Star-Ledger.
“Certainly I was surprised when the prospect of coaching another team
raised its head one month after leaving this team. It’s upsetting.”

Since Sutter was still under contract with the
Devils after he resigned, Vanderbeek and GM Lou Lamoriello had to give
permission for the Flames to negotiate with Sutter. They could have
refused, yet the acquiesced out of respect for their former coach (yet
another example of the class of the organization, as much as it pains me
to say). That doesn’t mean they have to be happy about it.

Yet
the Devils are sitting happy in 4th in the East while the Flames are
struggling out in Calgary, with the most anemic offense in the NHL,
aside from Boston. It’s a different situation of course, as the Flames
are rebuilding (supposedly), but you have to think that Vanderbeek feels
a bit better about the situation now than he did last summer. That
doesn’t mean he has to be happy about it, and nor should he.

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  1. Marianne - Mar 5, 2010 at 2:50 PM

    Is any hockey writer capable of giving the Devils a compliment without making some backhanded comment after it? Citing the Devils class by then remarking that it’s painful to admit they’re a world class organization is not exactly praising a franchise that has nothing but win, breed talented athletes, and conduct themselves in a professional and classy manner.

  2. Brandon Worley - Mar 5, 2010 at 4:41 PM

    Sorry if that was received as a backhanded compliment. I have nothing but respect for the Devils organization. Coming from a Dallas Stars background I have a natural….anger towards the Devils. I’ll try not let that come through in the future.

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