On the eve of their first home game in nearly two months, the Buffalo Beauts announced rather shockingly that both head coach Ric Seiling and assistant coach Craig Muni had been relieved of their duties. In the interim, former Buffalo Sabres forward Cody McCormick will be assuming the head coaching duties. General Manager Nik Fattey will serve as an interim assistant coach and goaltending coach Ryan Vinz will remain on the team’s coaching staff.
Cody McCormick has been named interim head coach.
General Manager, Nik Fattey, will serve as an interim assistant coach. pic.twitter.com/hhZnBs36Q0
— Buffalo Beauts (@BuffaloBeauts) December 8, 2018
McCormick posted the following message on Twitter regarding his new position with the team:
“I am so honored and excited about the opportunity to lead such a amazing group of players and most important amazing individuals. The work is just beginning and I’m ready for the challenge ahead! Go Beauts!”
The Beauts will face the Connecticut Whale on Dec. 8, 2018 at 6:00PM in their home rink at the HarborCenter. The game is being played less than 24 hours after the coaching change was announced. This is the first time that the Beauts have played at home since Oct. 13, and their first regular season game since a Nov. 18 showdown in Boston against the Pride.
Hard to Find Justification for Firing
Outwardly it is difficult to find justification for Seiling and Muni to have been let go. Seiling had been with the Beauts since the very beginning, and took them to the Isobel Cup Final each year since the NWHL’s inception. During the 2016-17 season – the first with Muni at his side – Seiling helped lead the team to their first Isobel Cup Championship. No other coach in NWHL history has made three straight appearances in the Final, and with the growth of the league, that is a difficult mark to top.
With regards to Muni, one would be hard-pressed to find a more accomplished coach in the game. With an Isobel Cup and three Stanley Cups to his credit, he always seemed to impart his own experiences of the ups and downs in becoming a winning team to the Beauts players. The tandem aspect of coaching that he and Seiling provided set the standard around the league, and was rather unique considering both men’s collective experience – it was unprecedented.
During Seiling’s three-plus seasons with the Beauts the team compiled a record of 26-26-3-2 during the regular season. While that may seem average, it does not justify the postseason success the team always has had under his watch.
What also is difficult to fathom is that the announcement was made so close before the Beauts game against the Whale. One would have thought that the move would have come a bit earlier, if it came at all. While coaching changes are always difficult decisions to make no matter what – either from a personal or professional standpoint, or both – it will be very interesting to see how the players respond in the game and to McCormick’s new role at the helm.
A Nice Opportunity for McCormick
No matter what the sentiments may be about the release of Seiling and Muni, this is a tremendous opportunity for McCormick. During his playing days with the Sabres, he was always well-liked by the Buffalo community for his physical role on the ice and a willingness to drop the gloves. His playing style and personality represented the City of Buffalo quite well.
Though McCormick sadly had to retire prematurely due to blood clots on his lungs, he played 11 seasons in the NHL. Beginning his career with the Colorado Avalanche – the team that drafted him 144th overall in the 2001 NHL Draft – he would play the bulk of his career as a Sabre and had a brief stop with the Minnesota Wild as well. In total, McCormick played 405 regular season games in the NHL, plus 27 more in the playoffs.
At 35 years old, McCormick is much closer in age to many of the Beauts players. Both goaltender Shannon Szabados and defender Lisa Chesson are 32 years old themselves. In that respect, there may be more of a natural connection between McCormick and his new players.
Let’s Face Facts
Let’s face facts here – the Beauts still have 10 more games to play this season before it is playoff time, and the start has been less than good in some eyes. While a large number of both experts and novices surmised that Buffalo would steamroll the league due to the summer acquisitions they had made, that has not taken shape. There is a lot of talent in the NWHL, and while the Beauts are indeed a powerhouse of their own, the Boston Pride and especially the Minnesota Whitecaps have been able to stymie them.
Looking for all the teddies in the stands tonight! 👀 because it’s teddy bear toss #gameday 👊🏼👊🏼 all tossed teddies will be donated to Child and Family Services of WNY! 🐻 #hoovesup pic.twitter.com/En5SUkelW8
— Nicole Hensley (@NicHens29) December 8, 2018
Is a record of 3-3 enough cause to justify a coaching change? Perhaps. But what will be most important is for McCormick is to quickly and confidently take the reigns, and lead them solidly into 2019 and onward. The expectations on the Beauts are rather lofty, and that poses a unique challenge for both McCormick and Fattey, and for the players themselves.