If I am a Thunder fan, I'm rejoicing today. I don't see how Thunder GM Joel Lomurno could have done better than landing Kevin McClelland as coach. His record is well-documented by now (CHL coach of the year, four straight playoff trips, a 187-107-26 record) mark the past four years). And his success as a player (four Stanley Cup championships) brings instant respect in the dressing room. But until today I wasn't aware of how highly regarded McClelland is around the league. I talked to three coaches today, and all were glowing in their praise of McClelland. They were sincerely happy that McClelland was hired and described him as a great guy and a great coach. The quote I think Thunder fans will like the most came from Dan Wildfong. I asked Wildfong what kind of a team Thunder fans can expect McClelland to put on the ice.
"He'll have guys with skill, and he'll have hardworking guys. It won't be a soft team, I can tell you that. The players will give you everything they've got, or they probably won't be there very long."
That sounds like what Thunder fans have been thirsting for. For years.
It will be fascinating to watch McClelland go to work. Derek Laxdal is the last Thunder coach, in my opinion, to have a clear idea of the team he wanted to build. I can recall talking to Laxdal on the day he was hired, and he knew exactly what he needed to do in Wichita. Of course, Laxdal benefitted from having Travis Clayton and Jason Duda in their primes, but he also had a blueprint. He knew that day who his goalie would be. He was a great evaluator of talent, and his trade for Joe Blaznek gave the Thunder the league's best line.
I am sure that McClelland, similarly, knows what steps to take to rebuild the Thunder. If I'm a current player, I would be worried about my future. It's difficult to imagine McClelland bringing back more than three or four guys. Details of McClelland’s plan will start to be revealed at Monday’s presser. For today, Thunder fans, enjoy the moment.