During a 45-minute span early Thursday evening, Wichita Thunder general manager Joel Lomurno was contacted — via phone or e-mail — by five coaches inquiring about the team's vacant position.
Lomurno was surprised that word had spread so quickly about the firing of Brent Bilodeau, which had occurred three hours earlier.
Some interesting would-be candidates left messages on Lomurno's cell phone, including two with strong ties to the Central Hockey League franchise: Bryan Wells and Rob Weingartner.
Wells and Weingartner, both known for their toughness and intensity, are former Thunder players and coaches.
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Tracy Egeland, who has seven years' coaching experience in the CHL, also contacted Lomurno.
Lomurno stressed that he will not rush into hiring the ninth coach in the history of the franchise, which was formed in 1992. Thunder veteran Jason Duda, who is on injured reserve until Dec. 1 with a sore back, will serve as interim coach.
However, Duda intends to return to the ice if he is healthy enough to play, Lomurno said. Duda, the Thunder's career scoring leader, did not return a call for comment.
Lomurno expects quality candidates to apply for the position.
"How could this not be an attractive job?" Lomurno said. "We've won championships, we've got a loyal fan base, and we're moving into a new arena.
"There's no reason to just pluck someone out of mid-air. I want to take my time and find someone who is exactly the right fit."
Lomurno thought Bilodeau was such a coach when he hired the former East Coast Hockey League assistant.
But Bilodeau went 20-41-3 as a rookie head coach for Wichita during the 2008-09 season, and the team, despite high expectations, is off to a 2-7 start this year, including 1-5 at home.
While Lomurno said he admired Bilodeau's work ethic and game preparation, he feared the team was headed toward a third straight last-place finish.
"My biggest overall complaint wouldn't be that we're 2-7 but that we've only played two good games — the ones we won," Lomurno said. "The other games we haven't even been in.
"I understand it might take a while for a team to get going, but I'd like to know we're competitive every night, and we're just not. I go home after games and it's hard to find any positives on this team."
Lomurno was also concerned about the Thunder's poor performances during the third period of games.
In Bilodeau's one-plus seasons, the Thunder was 1-45-2 when trailing after two periods. This year, the Thunder has been competitive in the first two periods but outscored 15-2 in the third.
"You've got to figure things out and make a few adjustments by the third period, and we didn't seem to do that," Lomurno said. "In the third period, we had nothing."
Bilodeau did not return a message on his cell phone requesting comment.
Like Lomurno, goaltender Tim Boron praised Bilodeau's dedication.
"He always tried to make us better and get us prepared for games," Boron said. "A lack of effort was not a problem."
Forward Mike Batovanja said the players bear the responsibility for the team's poor start. On several occasions this season, Bilodeau criticized the team's lack of sustained effort and intensity.
"I don't think it (Bildoeau's firing) needed to happen," Batovanja said. "I think it's unfair that the coach has to take the fall for the way we've been playing. I know he never gave up.
"At this level, guys shouldn't have to be told to play hard every night. You should just do it."
Rob Boyle will be retained as assistant coach. Roster moves will be a collaborative decision made by Lomurno, Duda, Boyle and team captain Chris McAllister.