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Brent Sutter was devastated by New Jersey's stunning Game 7 loss to Carolina. ((Bill Kostroun/Associated Press))

Brent Sutter has stepped down as head coach of the New Jersey Devils.    

Sutter, who has coached the team the last two seasons, made the announcement Tuesday at a media conference.

He said being away from his family, who are in Red Deer, Alta., was the reason behind his decision and that the possibility of coaching in Calgary in Edmonton had nothing to do with it.

"I've had zero contact with the Oilers through the process and I've had zero contact with the Flames through the process," Sutter said.

Sutter had one year remaining on his contract with the Devils.

"It might not be the right decision for some people and that's fine and that's always out there," he said. "I don't at all look at it like I'm 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 try to accomplish a goal there that we wanted to accomplish.

"By me doing that, my life has suffered in other areas. And those areas to me are bigger than the game."

His family has remained in Alberta since he was hired in 2007.

Not ruling out Calgary

Sutter, who turns 47 on Wednesday, joined the Devils after seven years of coaching the Red Deer Rebels, the Western Hockey League team he also owns.

As for rumours swirling about the possibility that he would coach the Flames, Sutter emphasized that had nothing to do with his decision to resign from the Devils.

"That has zero impact at all on my decision-making here and my decision," he said. "Zero, none."

But he didn't rule out the possibility of coaching in Calgary, either. Sutter said any team that wants to discuss a future with him will have to go through Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello.

"If that occurs, just like anything else, you always look at it," Sutter said. "But that's up to Mr. Lamoriello and other circumstances. That has nothing to do with me at all."

Asked whether he could balance family life and hold down a head coaching job in the NHL, Sutter said it was possible. 

"Absolutely, under the right circumstances you possibly can make that work," he said. "Red Deer's just one bit of it, one piece of the pie."

A Viking, Alta., native, Sutter guided New Jersey to a 91-56-10 record over two seasons, but the Devils were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs each time.

Successor not yet named

This year Carolina's last-minute comeback in Game 7 eliminated the team and left Sutter devastated but not ready to speculate on his future.

His brother Darryl Sutter has yet to decide who will coach the Calgary Flames after firing Mike Keenan. It is not known if the Devils would allow Brent Sutter to take an NHL job immediately without compensation.

Since Pat Burns stepped down to battle colon cancer in 2005, the Devils have been looking for stability behind the bench. Larry Robinson, Claude Julien and Lamoriello coached the team for brief periods before Sutter came aboard.

Sutter's successor was not announced on Tuesday.

When asked, Sutter said he thought Devils assistant coach John MacLean would be ready for the head coaching position.

"Lou will make the proper decision. And I'm hoping John's part of that process," Sutter said. "I think John's a very good coach. And is it different being a head coach and an assistant coach? Absolutely. But that being said, I mean, John's more than capable of being that."