The 45-year-old Sutter was hired by general manager Lou Lamoriello on Friday, hoping to become the first Devils coach in three seasons to start and finish a season. This will be his first NHL coaching job.
“In some ways we both come from the same school,” Sutter said of Lamoriello. “I am not saying there won’t be times where people disagree, but I have learned through it all, you don’t want to agree all the time. You need discussion whether good or bad. The important thing is to make decisions that are right for the front of that jersey, that’s what matters.”
For Lamoriello, that means winning the Stanley Cup. New Jersey has captured it three times in 12 seasons, but not since 2003 with Pat Burns. He had to step down after the next season because of cancer and Lamoriello hasn’t found the right coach to replace him.
Larry Robinson, who led New Jersey to a Cup title in 2000, stepped down halfway through the 2005-06 season because the pressure got to him. Claude Julien was hired last summer, but Lamoriello dismissed him with three games left in the regular season because he didn’t like the way the team was playing. Both times Lamoriello finished the season as coach.
While it took two months to hire Sutter, Lamoriello said he was the No. 1 choice to coach the team that won the Atlantic Division title last season.
“There is no question in my mind that Brent has the qualities that give us the ability to have success,” Lamoriello said. “There are a lot of reasons for that. It starts off with character and goes to experience, knowledge and also the presence and respect the players will have when he speaks.”
It’s a no-nonsense approach that Sutter had throughout his 17-year NHL career that included two Stanley Cup championships with the New York Islanders.
Sutter did whatever was necessary on the ice.
“There doesn’t have to be a tremendous amount of love between the players and their head coach. There has to be a tremendous amount of respect,” Sutter said. “I demand respect. I demand hard work. I’ll do everything I can and I expect the same thing back from the players.”
Sutter will be the Devils’ 14th coach in 26 seasons in New Jersey. He insisted he wasn’t worried about his job security with the Devils.
“This is about now and about the direction the organization wants to move forward,” Sutter said. “I am happy to be part of that.”
Neither Lamoriello nor Sutter would discuss details of Sutter’s contract.
“We’re very confident Brent is the type of person who can be here for a long time,” Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek said.
Sutter coached the Red Deer Rebels – a team he owns – to the Memorial Cup in 2001. His stature as a top NHL coaching prospect was significantly enhanced when he guided Canada to world junior gold in 2005 and 2006.
Sutter resigned as coach and general manager of the Rebels on Thursday, but retained ownership of the team he bought in 1999.
The hiring will not prevent Sutter from coaching Canada for the Canada-Russia junior showdown that’ll run from Aug. 27-Sept. 9, Lamoriello said.
Lamoriello wooed Sutter after the 2005-06 season, but he opted to remain in Alberta.
“At this point in time, this was the right time,” said Sutter, adding he didn’t want to leave Red Deer until he was confident the team would continue to flourish. “It’s just not the timing there, it’s the timing here, too. With the conversation Lou and I had, this is the right fit for Brent Sutter and I’m hoping the right fit for the New Jersey Devils, too.”
Sutter will take over a club that lost two top players to free agency this month. Centre Scott Gomez signed with the cross-river rival New York Rangers and all-star defenceman Brian Rafalski signed with Detroit. Both were members of the Devils’ Stanley Cup championship teams in 2000 and 2003.
Sutter will also face the prospect of coaching his first nine games on the road next season. The Devils are moving into the new Prudential Center in the state’s largest city after playing at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., for 25 years.
The new building is in its final stages of construction, and the Devils scheduled a long road trip to open the season to avoid a possible problem.
Sutter’s brothers Darryl, Brian and Duane have all been NHL head coaches.