After having dropped the last four games, this leaving the team in last place in their conference, the Kitchener Rangers announced on Monday that Jay McKee has been relieved of his duties. General manager Mike McKenzie announced his firing after Saturday’s game which saw the Rangers fall to the Petes by a final score of 3-1.
In replacement of Jay McKee, it was announced by the team on Monday that Mike McKenzie will fill in as interim head coach, at least for the time being. Entering Tuesday’s game, the Rangers hold a 7-10-0 record, meanwhile, during their losing streak, the team has only managed to score six goals.
As noted by Chase Banger of CTV News Kitchener, this does not compare to the 18 goals scored against the Rangers in the same stretch of games. This not only includes the Petes series, but the weekend set played against London.
According to Josh Brown, who reports on the Rangers for TheRecord.com, assistant coaches Andreas Karlsson and Dennis Wideman will be staying on board with the Kitchener Rangers. As well, the report from Brown indicates that interested coaching candidates are already contacting Kitchener, however, McKenzie, taking over as bench boss, is in no rush to fill the Rangers vacancy.
Brown also mentions that GM Mike McKenzie wants to take some time and find the right fit to replace McKee as the team’s new head coach. With that being said, it will be be his first head coach hire as general manager of the Kitchener Rangers.
In a statement from Mike McKenzie following the firing of Jay McKee on Monday, he said, “It’s obviously never an easy decision. I have the utmost respect for Jay as a coach and as a person. It’s probably one of the last things I wanted to do or consider. It’s not a decision you make lightly and it’s painful to do. But at this point we just feel it’s necessary.”
With the team struggling to put together wins, it’s not just on the players, but it’s put on the coaching staff and as one might expect, Jay McKee has been a source of displeasure. With that being said, as McKenzie discussed the leadership McKee provided, he said, “Whenever something like this happens the coach is the one that takes the brunt of the punishment usually and sometimes that’s not completely fair. I think there is a lot of stuff other people could have done, including myself and the players to make sure we’re better and it didn’t happen.”
When looking at time McKee spent as a member of the Kitchener Rangers coaching staff, the former head coach joined the team as an associate coach back in 2015. Just a year later, McKee was promoted after Mike Van Ryn stepped down and retired. Van Ryn, the team’s skipper of three-plus seasons, finished with a record of 120-88-11-6. His record would end up ranking as fourth all-time in Kitchener Rangers history.
Speaking of the era of coaches, the Rangers have gone through four head coaches since 2013, this list including Troy Smith and Steve Spott in addition to Jay McKee and Mike Van Ryn.
While it’s been a recent struggle for Kitchener, it hasn’t been that way all season long as the Rangers started off the year with a bang while owning a record of 5-1-2-2. This was a record that formed in nine of the Rangers first ten games of the season. However, the club has since dealing with injuries, this including starting goaltender Jacob Ingham. Ingham, the team’s newest addition, is a prospect of the Los Angeles Kings. With that being said, this sent the Rangers down a long and dark tunnel as the team has won just two games in the last dozen they’ve played.
When looking at Jay McKee’s history, the former NHL defensemen has led the Rangers to the postseason since taking over, this list including the western conference two years ago when Kitchener battled the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. At this point, the club, located in Kitchener, were just one double overtime goal away from clinching their first OHL final since 2008.
Prior to being hired by Kitchener, Jay McKee spent one season in Erie where he was positioned as an assistant coach under the management of bench boss Kris Knoblauch. Since then, Knoblauch has moved up as he is now with the Hartford Wolf Pack as head coach in the American Hockey League.
When speaking further about Jay McKee, McKenzie said of the relationship they had, “We got along very well as co-workers and friends. Whenever something like this happens the coach is the one that takes the brunt of the punishment usually and sometimes that’s not completely fair. I think there is a lot of stuff other people could have done, including myself and the players, to make sure we’re better and it didn’t happen.”
In the end, it was time for change as the Kitchener Rangers flip the page to the next chapter. In closing, McKenzie said of the wants and needs of the team moving forward, “We just felt at this time that it was necessary to make a change and try to salvage our season.”