Two months ago, the Kitchener Rangers were dead last in the Western Conference.
General Manager Mike McKenzie decided the team needed a change and took matters into his own hands as he decided to step in as Head Coach.
Since then the team has gone 21-1-3.
Whatever McKenzie has done has saved the season and potentially a few jobs as he has brought this team to first place in their conference with confidence at an all-time high.
However, this is more than just a coaching change. McKenzie is redefining the team’s game and these adjustments have led to success.
The Rangers are now focused on playing smarter and defending physically without the puck while attacking as quick as they can with it.
“The team is working hard and that is something our staff has been preaching,” says McKenzie in an interview. “We have tried to focus on playing structured in the defensive zone, fast through the neutral zone and creative in the offensive zone.”
Goaltending and Video Coach Kain Tisi believes the team’s compete level was also an issue and the revamped aggressiveness and physicality has led to beneficial changes.
“Higher focus on our puck possession both when we have the puck as well as being more aggressive towards opponents with the puck,” says Tisi in an interview. “Taking their time and space away and trying to force them into mistakes that leads to us getting the puck back.”
Although the General Manager of the team, McKenize is no newbie at coaching.
He was hired in 2012 by the Rangers as an assistant coach and served that role for five years before moving up the pedestal to the front office.
“We decided a change was needed earlier in the season and figured it would not make sense to hire a new person mid-season, so I would step in to fill the role for the rest of the year,” says McKenzie.
Although McKenzie has had experience and success behind the bench in the past, no one, not even people within the Rangers organization, could expect a run like this.
“I feel like he (McKenzie) believed our team was capable of producing better results that weren’t necessarily being shown before he made the change,” adds Tisi. “No one could’ve predicted how big an impact he has had on our season, but it’s been a great ride and he deserves a tremendous amount of credit for what this team has done since he took over as head coach.”