The office of the new Cincinnati coaching staff underwent a remodeling earlier this week.
Incoming assistant coach Scott Fankhouser nudged his desk next to boss Jarrod Skalde, and the work pretty much was done.
"We're good. We just moved a desk around," Fankhouser said. "We moved them more at an angle so we can talk easier. We're doing the nuts and bolts of the buses, the hotels. Now we're ready to get down to talking hockey."
That will be the easiest part of their jobs -- because the two men have a decade's head start on it.
"I knew he'd be a coach once he was done playing," Fankhouser said of Skalde. "He was a student of the game. The guys respected him."
Fankhouser didn't have as clear a vision about his own future. His last season playing was 2008-09, with Bloomington of the IHL. Skalde coached that team, and when Fankhouser suffered an ankle injury during the season, Skalde asked him to help out as an assistant.
"I didn't even know I would enjoy coaching that much until that year in Bloomington," Fankhouser said. "Just after that, I was excited to do it."
Fankhouser decided to prepare for his new role in a different way -- by taking a year off for family time with his wife and two young sons.
"It refreshed me totally," Fankhouser said. "I learned a lot from watching two small kids. You have to be patient and calm. I think that will translate well to a hockey team."
Fankhouser had to sweat out getting that chance this season. He said all his pro inquiries slammed into a wall, and he called Skalde to seek some advice about maybe coaching in junior. Skalde said to sit tight because he might have something brewing with Kelly Cup champ Cincinnati. When Skalde was named coach there, Fankhouser suddenly had a very good reference for the second spot.
"For him, it has to be daunting to come to a team that's had such success. There's no learning period of getting to know each other. It's straight into business, straight into learning," Fankhouser said of the coaches' chemistry. "We definitely think alike, but I bring a different aspect. We definitely have the same mindset, but we have different perspectives that help each other."
Sauer hoping he can stay in one place this season -- The current plan calls for goalie Billy Sauer to start this season with Gwinnett. Past that, well, it's safe to say that last season taught Sauer to look no farther ahead than tomorrow.
Sauer got an encompassing tour of the ECHL as a rookie last season. While under contract to Lake Erie of the AHL, the Monsters loaned him to Charlotte, Toledo, Las Vegas and Alaska. All that travel doesn't even factor in the 15 games he played with Lake Erie.
Sauer might have less ECHL travel pain this season, if only because he's locked into a free-agent deal with the Gladiators.
"I'm hoping I'm going to be there for a while," Sauer said. "It was kind of a whirlwind (last season). I just kind of learned this is pro hockey. I had a lot of fun with it. It almost became kind of a joke -- what team are you playing for this week? The good part about being a goalie is you don't have to learn systems. If you can go out there and be there for your team, that's how you earn respect."
Carbery following South Carolina tradition -- South Carolina continued a successful organizational tradition earlier this week in naming forward Spencer Carbery as its new assistant coach.
Carbery became the latest in a long line of Stingrays players to step off the ice and into that job. Former goaltender Jason Fitzsimmons played for the Stingrays for three seasons, served as an assistant coach from 1998-2002 and coach from 2002-07. Former defenseman Jared Bednar skated for South Carolina from 1995-98 and 1999-2002, worked as an assistant under Fitzsimmons from 2002-07 and was coach from 2007-09. Current coach Cail MacLean dressed for three seasons with the Stingrays (2005-08), was promoted to an assistant for the 2008-09 season and was named to the top spot prior to the 2009-10 campaign.
"They like to promote from within here because they know the way the organization works. It seems like the common denominator for me is knowing that they are all quality people," Carbery said. "That's what they try to get here in South Carolina. It's a pretty big honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as those guys."
Even considering that compliment, Carbery said it took him three weeks to decide whether he wanted to take MacLean's offer and stop playing at age 28.
"It was a little bit tough at the beginning, thinking about not being able to play ever again," Carbery said. "It took some time. I just thought it (coaching) was something I couldn't pass up."
Victoria the perfect spot for McLeod -- At 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, forward Kiel McLeod doesn't take confinement too well. Victoria coach Mark Morrison has come by to give him a little breathing room.
Morrison and McLeod have reunited over a free-agent deal that lets the player stretch his game again. McLeod spent the last two seasons overseas, playing one season each in Italy and Austria.
While McLeod's game had space to sprout offensively -- 50 and 42 points, respectively -- his physical approach was cramped. He was whistled for 129 penalty minutes two seasons ago with Cortina SG in Italy and 178 last season with VSV EC in Austria. Both those totals were more than he compiled for any single team in the previous five seasons of his pro career.
"There was some really good hockey players there," he said. "But it's so much different than North America. Every time you make a clean check, you are sitting in the box. That takes away from the style I play. I'm not good enough to play a soft-skilled game. That's not what I've ever done."
McLeod is working with the right coach to round out his numbers. In 2006-07 he went 32-31-63 for Morrison's Salmon Kings, and the next season he produced 15-20-35 for Victoria in 48 games. Those are McLeod's best two offensive seasons as a pro in North America.
"There's obviously some familiarity with the coach. He only expects the best from me every shift," McLeod said. "You're expected to produce offensively. Mark installed confidence in me and gave me free reign to just play. The best thing that could have happened to me in my pro career was to come here."