March 10, 2009

Sutter May Leave Devils Not New News

This picture is of Dean Spiros' 1990 book Six Shooters, which looks at the Sutter family, including the six brothers who made it to the NHL: Brian, Brent, Darryl, Duane, Rich and Ron.

As you can see the cover shot is of the boys where at home back on the Alberta farm. Inside the book they talk longingly of the days of their youth where they played hockey endlessly in the barn, but only once the day's chores were done. The Sutters worked hard since the day they could walk.

The farm is perhaps the only place they feel more comfortable than at the arena. That could not be more true for Brent Sutter, especially.

Brent played in the big city lights of New York and Chicago, but he always returned to the farm in the off seasons. In retirement he got his own cattle ranch near beautiful Sylvan Lake. He operated the business and the tractors all while also managing and coaching in nearby Red Deer where he owned one of the WHL's most successful franchises - the Rebels.

He continues to control both entities from afar now, even as he has returned to the big leagues as the very successful coach of the New Jersey Devils. Somehow he keeps close tabs on both the ranch and Rebels while living 24/7 as a NHL coach. A notorious micro-manager, it is amazing he finds time to sleep.

Moreover, Sutter's wife and children remain in Alberta while he is working 2800 miles away in New Jersey. If there is anything that is obvious from Spiros' book it is that family is very important to the Sutters.

Tonight Calgary travels to New Jersey for the only time this season, leading to the Albertan press to inquire about the future of their wayward son.

There is a story out today by the CanWest News Services that Sutter may quit his job as New Jersey's coach at the conclusion of this season. This despite the fact the Devils are the top contenders for the Stanley Cup in many people's mind.

In Vicky Hall's piece she paints the coach as homesick, worried about his business and feeling directly responsible about the Rebels struggles since his departure.

None of that is really new. Neither is the possibility he may not return next year. He's always said he operates just one year at a time. Sutter probably always intended his return to the NHL to be relatively short.

But what makes this article so intriguing is that Sutter opens up to Hall.

"The hockey side ... that part's been fun. It's the other things. Between the ranch back home and the junior team, the Red Deer Rebels, being away from all that hasn't been the easiest thing for me."

"It's hard to explain to anybody," he said. "My situation is somewhat different than a lot of other coaches in the NHL. I own a major junior team. I own a ranch. I'm 2,800 miles from all that. I have a family, and I'm 2,800 miles away from them.

"That's home to me. It always has been. That team is very close to me. More than anything, I've always said it belongs to Red Deer and central Alberta. My job is to run it appropriately."

Sutter is a very tight lipped man. He's a no-nonsense kind of guy either. For him to be talking publicly like this may very well he has a tough decision to make this summer.

He will likely make that decision on the back of his tractor.

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