Puck Daddy - NHL

Multiple sources are reporting this morning that Brent Sutter will announce he's leaving the New Jersey Devils as head coach today, with CTV in Calgary speculating that the announcement "further fuels rumours that Brent Sutter will return to Alberta to join his brother Darryl, who is currently the Calgary Flames general manager."

(UPDATE: Done deal, via NHL.)

As Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger writes, Sutter is apparently leaving the Devils for reasons beyond the NHL:

Sutter apparently had an agreement with GM Lou Lamoriello to keep his decision private while the team searched for a new head coach. Lamoriello has refused to discuss that search or whether he is prepared to give assistant coach John MacLean a shot at the job. As for Sutter, it has not been an easy decision. Ultimately, being away from his family for long periods and the two-year struggle of his junior team (the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL), were the determining factors.

Sutter was 97-56-11 (.625 winning percentage) in two seasons with the Devils. His coaching job during the 2008-09 regular season was extraordinary considering the loss of Martin Brodeur(notes), and we still feel he was robbed of a Jack Adams nomination for it. But that sterling winning percentage drops to .333 (4-8) in the playoffs, as Sutter's teams suffered consecutive first-round losses to the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes

Besides honoring his contract, the primary hope that Sutter would return rested on the idea that he was dissatisfied with the level of success he attained in Jersey and wanted to "finish the job" behind the Devils bench. Obviously, other factors trump that motivation: Responsibilities with the junior team that he owns, dedication to his family, preventing Frodo from traveling to Mount Doom ...

Lamoriello will now hire his 15th head coach since 1988 (including those two times he hired himself). MacLean has been groomed more than a show dog, waiting for his chance since 2002 (which speaks volumes). The Jersey puckheads on NJ Devs and Devils Rule are brainstorming candidates this morning from the ridiculous (Ted Nolan) to the sublime (Peter Laviolette's not a bad one). But Lamoriello's never been one to follow the obvious path ... which naturally makes one wonder about Jacques Lemaire's super-secret job opportunity (all signs point to a consultancy with the Canadiens, but it's Lou we're talking about).

Bitter about Sutter leaving? Only if he takes over the Flames and leads them to greater heights than he led the Devils. Otherwise, he's a stellar regular season coach who couldn't win in the playoffs, and if the Devils wanted that they'd rehire Robbie Ftorek (/snark). But most of all, the Devils may no longer need a coach whose head is in Newark while his heart's in Red Deer.

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