Kevin McClelland, a proven winner as a coach in the Central Hockey League and a four-time Stanley Cup champion as a player, said on Monday evening that he is interested in the Wichita Thunder's vacant coaching position.
McClelland, who has guided teams to the CHL playoffs for four consecutive seasons, said he would welcome the "challenge" of turning around the struggling Thunder franchise.
Thunder general manager Joel Lomurno said he has a short list of candidates, and, given McClelland's resume, it would be surprising if he didn't move to the very top.
"I'd say if Kevin is interested, we are more than interested," Lomurno said. "Obviously, he would be a huge asset for this organization. I think he has many good qualities but, plain and simple, he is a good recruiter.
"I like that fact that he has been a winner everywhere he goes, as well. I think he's known as a pretty no-nonsense coach. He would fit in perfectly here."
Lomurno said he plans on contacting McClelland sometime this week.
McClelland became available earlier in the day when the Colorado Eagles, a league power, announced they were not renewing his contract. Colorado went 42-15-7 during the regular season but was swept by Bossier-Shreveport in the Northern Conference semifinals.
McClelland, a rugged winger who was a member of the Edmonton Oilers' dynasty in the 1980s, said he plans to weigh his options and discuss his future with his family. Asked about the Thunder specifically, he said the team's new home, Intrust Bank Arena, would be an asset for a coach.
"It's a great venue," he said. "You could attract a lot of good players there."
A once-proud organization, the Thunder fielded one of the worst teams in CHL history in 2009-10, going 9-50-5. The team hasn't had a winning record since 2005-06.
McClelland said the Thunder's recent struggles would not keep him from considering the position.
"Teams go through rough spots," he said. "I would look at it as a great challenge."
McClelland had a losing record (22-37) as a rookie head coach for Memphis in 2005-06. But he guided that franchise to the playoffs the next season and was named the CHL coach of the year.
He took Mississippi to the playoffs in 2007-08 and reached the CHL finals with Colorado last season after the Eagles compiled the league's best record (45-15-4).
Lomurno said he has four candidates, including Jason Duda, who took over as interim coach after Brent Bilodeau was fired.
"I spoke with Jason at the end of the season and told him I think he could do a very good job, but I also told him there may be some other good candidates available, and I would be a fool not to consider those," Lomurno said.