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Devils coach Brent Sutter resigns

NEWARK, N.J. - After six weeks of mulling, Brent Sutterchose family and business at home in western Canada over coachingthe Devils in New Jersey.

Sutter resigned as the Devils' coach after just two seasons onTuesday, scoffing at the idea that some may criticize him forleaving so soon.

"It might not be the right decision for some people and that'sfine," Sutter said in a conference call from his home in Red Deer,Alberta. "I don't look at it like I am quitting on anything. Ithrew two years of my life and made a big commitment 3,000 milesaway from where my life was and tried to do everything I possiblycould to accomplish a goal. So by me doing that my life hassuffered in other areas, and those areas to me are bigger than thegame."

Sutter insisted that neither the Devils' crushing loss to theCarolina Hurricanes in Game 7 of their first-round EasternConference playoff series nor the current coaching vacancy with thenearby Calgary Flames had anything to do with his decision.

"It had to do with a lot of things back here in Red Deer,"said Sutter, whose older brother, Darryl, is the Flames' generalmanager. "There were circumstances that have occurred especiallyover the last year that has made it increasingly more difficult andI have to do the right thing. And the right thing was to step backand evaluate everything and go through the process that I had to gothrough and then my decision came down to what it is."

Sutter not only owns a ranch that produces oil at home, he alsoowns the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League, a majorjunior franchise. The club has missed the playoffs the past twoyears with Sutter in New Jersey.

Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said Sutterinformed him of the decision on Monday night.

While disappointed, Lamoriello said he understood it.

"He had to come to grips on what was best for himself, hisfamily and his Red Deer team," Lamoriello said in a telephoneinterview. "He was the only person who could make that decisionand I respect that."

Lamoriello refused to speculate on possible replacements.

When asked if longtime coach John MacLean was ready to be a headcoach, Sutter said: "You bet!"

Jacques Lemaire, who led the Devils to their first of threeStanley Cups, also is available. The 63-year-old resigned as coachof the Minnesota Wild after the season.

"Right now we're going to take a step back, look at the bigpicture and not rush things," Lamoriello said. "We want to makethe best decision for the organization."

While the Devils have three titles, they have not won the Cupsince 2003. New Jersey was eliminated in the first round of theplayoffs in both of Sutter's seasons.

This past season's ouster was stunning.

New Jersey, which won its seventh Atlantic Division title in 12years this past spring, gave up two goals in the final 80 secondsof Game 7 against Carolina and lost 4-3.

After the season ended in late April, Sutter said he would spendtime deciding what he wanted to do.

"I just wanted to make sure I never looked back and regrettedit," Sutter said. "To be quite honest, I had a decent sleep lastnight for the first time in seven weeks."

The Devils won a franchise-record 51 games this past seasondespite losing goaltender Martin Brodeur for 50 games with an elbowinjury.

"As far as the hockey side of it there and what I've learnedfrom being around the people I've been around and been able tocoach the players that I've coached, it was a great experience,"Sutter said. "I don't regret that at all. It was two years thereand I got the chance to be around some great people and all of theplayers that I coached over that period of time were fantastic."

Because he is under contract, Sutter could not take a job withanother NHL team next season without the Devils' approval.

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