After reading this article in yesterday's Calgary Sun, it has become apparent to me that the likelihood of Brent Sutter returning to coach the New Jersey Devils is slim. It appears Sutter is home sick, and either wants to work for his junior team or coach closer to home.
My theory, based on what I'm reading, is that he'd prefer to coach for his brother Darryl, who is currently GM of the Calgary Flames. Sutter seems to be trying to do right by the Devils and has told Lou Lamoriello that he'd be willing to live up to the third year of his contract, but he'd really prefer to coach closer to home.
I think he's also trying to keep it out of the press, as to not hamstring the Devils at all. Mind you, I have no inside information—it is just a conclusion reached by looking at the different reports.
If this theory is correct, then how can Lamoriello bring back Sutter to coach where he doesn't want to be? He simply can't.
I'm sure Lamoriello realizes this, and is probably trying to work out a compensation package with Sutter. Who knows what that might entail. My guess would be a draft pick of some kind and/or possibly a fringe player, but I wouldn't expect the Devils to get a huge package or anything. However, it would make sense that any deal would have to get done before the NHL Entry Draft on June 26th.
The obvious question that comes to the forefront is, who will be the head coach for the Devils next season? Let me throw out a few candidates for you, in no particular order.
Peter Laviolette: Former head coach of the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes; at age 44, he is a younger candidate, and gears towards an up-tempo system similar to Sutter. However, I think Laviolette may be a little too outspoken for the likes of Lamoriello and the Devils. But, having a background with Providence, things like that always tend to appeal to Lamoriello, who had a long run at Providence College before he came to the Devils. So you can't totally rule him out. Potential Odds: 15-1
John MacLean: Currently, the assistant coach of the Devils, MacLean has a great history with the team and has been a coach since 2002. Unfortunately for him, MacLean was passed over at least once for GM Lou Lamoriello, who deemed MacLean not ready for a head coaching position yet. I'd personally be surprised if MacLean got the gig. He's still probably the favorite, at least on paper, since he's already in place within the organization. Potential Odds: 7-1
Guy Carbonneau: Carbonneau fits the old "Montreal lineage" that the Devils have utilized in the past, and was the head coach of the Canadiens up into this season, when he was fired on March 9th. I think Carbonneau has a decent chance to get considered by the Devils, but ultimately, I think he will fall short of getting the job. However, I certainly wouldn't rule him out as a viable candidate. Odds: 20-1
Craig MacTavish: Similar to Carbonneau, MacTavish just recently left a position with an NHL team, having mutually decided to end his tenure as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers. MacTavish has a good background as coach, having made the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006, but has yet to make the playoffs since, and without enough playoff success, his candidacy probably wouldn't net him the job in New Jersey. Odds: 40-1
Jacques Lemaire: Would Lamoriello be interested in bringing back Lemaire? More importantly, would Lemaire even have interest in returning to coaching? Lemaire just recently retired from an eight-season run as head coach of the Minnesota Wild. Although the Internet rumors have been out there about a return of Lemaire to New Jersey, I think at age 64, Lemaire is likely not looking for another head coaching job at this point. Maybe he would come to New Jersey in some type of consulting position, but I'd be shocked if he were made the head coach. Odds: 100-1
Ted Nolan: Way too outspoken—I won't even waste anyone's time trying to sell him as a viable candidate Odds: 1000-1
Scott Stevens: He's probably not interested in coaching at this point of his retirement, and has absolutely no head coaching experience whatsoever. As appealing as it would be for Devils fans to see Stevens return to town, I think naming him coach would not only be unfair to the Devils, it'd be unfair to the Stevens as well. Odds: 1000-1
Lou Lamoriello: Would Lou go back to the well a third time? I don't see it happening, but with Lou, you certainly never know. Odds: 1000-1
Mike Keenan: Ha! That is a funny one. Odds: 100000-1
Brent Sutter: Obviously, there's still a chance that Sutter does come back. It is widely speculated that Lamoriello had targeted Sutter for years, and finally brought him to New Jersey two years ago. I can't imagine Lamoriello will not want Sutter to stay, but the big holdup would be Sutter would want to be in New Jersey. Odds: 10-1
The Field: The likely scenario in my opinion is Lamoriello brings in someone off the radar a bit and not even on this list. He's certainly done it before, bringing in guys like Jacques Lemaire, Kevin Constantine, Pat Burns and Brent Sutter. Any suggestions you guys can think of? Odds: 2-1
It will be interesting to see how things unfold in the coming weeks, and see if I am right or not about the situation regarding Sutter. Assuming he leaves, it will also be very interesting to see if the Devils look to bring in someone to continue the up-tempo fore-checking style that Sutter preached, or if the team will then be forced to learn a whole new system.
Stay tuned, Devils fans....