The 45-year-old Sutter will be the Devils’ 14th coach in 26 seasons in New Jersey, and he will try next season to become the first to finish a season since Pat Burns in 2003-04. Days after the season, cancer forced Burns to step down.
Sutter insisted that he wasn’t aware of the lack of 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.”
Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello, who fired Claude Julien with three games left in the regular season, said that Sutter was his only choice to coach. The two and team owner Jeff Vanderbeek have spoken at time for about three months.
“I believe from the first time we met there was a chemistry as far as philosophy that was extremely similar,” said Lamoriello, who refused to disclose details of Sutter’s contract.
A two-time Stanley Cup winner with the New York Islanders in the 1980s and one of six brothers to play in the NHL, Sutter has never coached an NHL team. A strong disciplinarian, he has had success behind the bench.
“There doesn’t have to be a tremendous amount of love between the players and their head coach,” said Sutter. “There has to be a tremendous amount of respect.
“I demand respect. I demand hard work. I’ll do everything I can and I expect the same thing back from the players.”
The Devils won the Atlantic Division title this past season and were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs the eventual Eastern Conference champion Ottawa Senators.
Vanderbeek also declined to comment on the contract but he felt Sutter would be with the Devils for a “long, long” time.
That hasn’t been the case with recent coaches.
After the 2004-05 lockout season, Larry Robinson lasted half a season before resigning and being replaced Lamoriello.
Julien got the job last summer and had the Devils in first place when Lamoriello fired him because he didn’t like the way the team was playing. Lamoriello again went behind the bench.
Now it’s Sutter’s turn.
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 he 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 through 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 of its top players to free agency in recent weeks. Centre Scott Gomez signed with the rival New York Rangers and all-star defenceman Brian Rafalski signed with Detroit. Both players were members of the Devils’ Stanley Cup championship teams in 2000 and 2003.
New Jersey won its first Cup in 1995.
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 the past 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.