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Sutter steps down as Devils coach

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- After six weeks of mulling, Brent Sutter chose family and business at home in western Canada over coaching the Devils in New Jersey.

Sutter resigned as the Devils' coach after just two seasons on Tuesday, scoffing at the idea that some may criticize him for leaving so soon.

"It might not be the right decision for some people and that's fine,'' 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. I threw two years of my life and made a big commitment 3,000 miles away from where my life was and tried to do everything I possibly could to accomplish a goal. So by me doing that my life has suffered in other areas, and those areas to me are bigger than the game.''

Sutter insisted that neither the Devils' crushing loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series nor the current coaching vacancy with the nearby 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' general manager. "There were circumstances that have occurred especially over the last year that has made it increasingly more difficult and I have to do the right thing. And the right thing was to step back and evaluate everything and go through the process that I had to go through and then my decision came down to what it is.''

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

Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said Sutter informed 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, his family and his Red Deer team,'' Lamoriello said in a telephone interview. "He was the only person who could make that decision and I respect that.''

Lamoriello refused to speculate on possible replacements.

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

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

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

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

This past season's ouster was stunning.

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

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

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

The Devils won a franchise-record 51 games this past season despite losing goaltender Martin Brodeur for 50 games with an elbow injury.

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

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

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