Sudden shakeup in Buffalo Beauts coaching, management (Update)

Courtesy of the NWHL

One thing the NWHL is learning the hard way is how to coordinate a message within their ranks.

The league first sent the fanbase into a tizzy this morning as they sent out a press release announcing Ric Seiling as the new general manager of the franchise.

From the NWHL Press Release:

New York, NY — Ric Seiling has been named General Manager of the Buffalo Beauts, NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan announced Tuesday. 

“Ric Seiling brings a wealth of professional hockey experience to the National Women’s Hockey League,” said Commissioner Rylan. “We’re thrilled to have him back for the 2016-2017 season as both a coach and general manager.”

Ric Seiling and Shelley Looney served as co-coaches of the Beauts last season, and guided Buffalo to an upset over the Connecticut Whale in the semifinals of the Isobel Cup playoffs.

Seiling’s professional career spanned 10 years in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres and the Detroit Red Wings, after which he transitioned into a coaching role in the American Hockey League. 

“Last season we championed what Buffalo is about: hard work and never give up attitude,” said Seiling. “This work ethic took us to the Isobel Cup finals, and we will look to build on that success and bring the Cup home to Buffalo.”

Hmm, anyone want to address the buffalo in the room? Up to this point, Linda Mroz was the general manager of the team. No one - not the league or the team - had said anything to the contrary.

Puck Daddy contacted the NWHL for comment on Mroz. [Updated] From NWHL PR via email:

"Linda Mroz will remain a part of the Buffalo Beauts management team. Mroz will serve as the game day operations manager working directly with GM Ric Seiling."

Erik Wollschlager, Buffalo Beauts beat writer for Today's Slapshot, took to Twitter to make additional announcement from now-GM Seiling:

This seems like something the league should have addressed in that press release...

Seiling was a co-coach alongside Shelley Looney this past season. He'll remain on as a coach and now the GM. Together Seiling and Looney coached the Beauts to an upset of the Connecticut Whale for an appearance in the Isobel Cup.

Per Wollschlager, Looney is focusing her efforts on the Buffalo Bisons youth hockey program. According to the Bisons' website, Looney is the Hockey Director for the organization.

As for the now-former GM Mroz, from Wollschlager:

To recap: Ric Seiling is named as GM and will continue to coach the team next season. He will be without co-coach Shelley Looney. Linda Mroz is no longer the GM, but is in charge of game day operations.

Got all that?

This is the second move the NWHL has made in the past week that combines a coach with the general manager position.

Connecticut Whale assistant coach Lisa Giovanelli Zuba will keep her job behind the bench, and assume the role of general manager for the upcoming season. Questions are already circling about the inherent conflict this poses when she's assisting head coach Heather Linstad and acting as her boss in the standard GM role. Although, it should be noted the league hired Lindstad late in the season when coach Jake Mastel resigned suddenly. How much influence Giovanelli Zuba has on the coach going forward is yet to be seen.

Dani Rylan was the GM of the New York Riveters this past season. All indications have been that she'll give up the post in order to focus on her duties as the NWHL commissioner. Could head coach Chad Wiseman become the GM? We don't know.

Pure speculation here. It's not a stretch to think these moves are a way for the league to save money. By combining the coach and GM into one position, there is one less person to pay a full salary to. Seiling probably received a bump in pay for his dual role, but isn't pulling down two paychecks. With Looney gone and Mroz's position changed (assuming she won't receive GM money), that saves a good deal for the league.

The next hurdle for the Beauts and the rest of the NWHL is free agency opening on May 1.

Every player in the NWHL signed a one-year contract last season, essentially making each team a blank slate.

If the last few weeks are any indication of what's to come, it will be interesting to see how the league handles year two. They aren't receiving the benefit of the doubt anymore as a rookie league.

UPDATE

- Added the NWHL's comment on Linda Mroz.

- Wollschlager posted an exclusive interview with GM Seiling on Today's Slapshot after we published. The post also includes a quote from former-GM Mroz.

Two things we took away from the chat with Seiling:

1) The decision to shake up the organization this way wasn't one that was in the works. Something in the last two weeks - since the end of the Isobel Cup on March 12 - prompted the change.

2) Seiling indicates he is looking for a co-coach to replace Looney, which puts a damper on the financial theory. We've requested confirmation from the NWHL on the coaching position.

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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @MsJenNeale_PD.

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