At LA Kings practices, 48-year-old assistant coach Pierre Turgeon demonstrates drills with the joy and energy of someone half his age.
Often wearing a smile on his face, Turgeon does his best to try to teach the players about the finer points of offense in order to help them boost their scoring. Overall, it's easy to tell the former NHL veteran, who notched 1,327 points in 1,294 games, is enjoying his first season as the team's offensive coordinator and being back with an NHL organization.
"You can work hard and not have fun, and work hard and have fun," Turgeon said. "I prefer the have fun part."
Turgeon's love of the game rubs off on his players, which makes it easier for them to take direction from him.
"Your ability to connect with him as a human first and foremost is his strongest asset," forward Brooks Laich said. "He's very personable, very light, always keeps it very enjoyable around the rink and making sure guys are having fun and then his knowledge obviously pours out from that connection."
Turgeon's job involves more than just helping players maximize their offensive potential in practice drills. During games, his role takes him up to in the press box where he has a bird's eye view of the ice that helps him get a better sense of how the team can generate more chances. He also looks at video and breaks down different parts of the game to highlight.
"He obviously brings a lot of intelligence to the offensive side of the puck so if he tells you something you're going to listen what he has to say," forward Tanner Pearson said. "Whether it's work on a one-timer that Brett Hull taught him or something like that, they're just small things like that where you listen to him when he has something to say."
Since Los Angeles' offense had struggled over previous few seasons, hiring one of the best offensive players of his era to teach that element of the game made a lot of sense for the Kings. Currently, Los Angeles ranks 10th in the NHL with a 3.36 goals per-game average. Last season the Kings ranked 24th with 2.43 goals per-game.
Players noted the decision was a forward-thinking move by the organization.
"More and more you're starting to see skills coaches and I'm surprised hockey hasn't trended more towards football in that regards where football has a position coach for every position," Laich said. "In hockey there's wingers, there's centermen, there's defensemen and usually it's kind of governed just by the coaches. Now you're starting to see specialized coaches coming in."
Video: Pierre Turgeon talks about his new role for the Kings
Added Laich, "Certainly Pierre is the offensive coach."
Coaching with the Kings has been a transition for Turgeon, since it's his first position back in the NHL since he retired after the 2006-07 season. His first road trip was particularly interesting since it went through St. Louis and Montreal - two places where Turgeon spent meaningful time in his career. Turgeon notched 355 points in 327 games with the Blues. He was also the captain of the Canadiens and played 104 games with that organization.
"It was awesome. It was fun. It has been many years [since I played in those places]. You go back to when we opened the Molson Center [in Montreal] or when we closed the Forum. There's memories there - it's history," he said. "Going to St. Louis where I had great years too, I saw friends there, which was fun … so it was very cool."
Living in Los Angeles and experiencing beach life is also different for Turgeon, who came here from Denver. In some respects, he hasn't had a chance to get that used to it since the year got moving early with a preseason trip to China.
"I mean it has been great. We love it," he said. "September was busy going to China and looking for a place and trying to find a place and, 'Where's the grocery store?' and 'Where's the dry cleaner?' and 'Where are the things you take for granted every day that you're used to having at home and you don't even think about it.'"
The initial reviews for Turgeon have been positive all the way around, but there's still somewhat of a learning curve for him as he continues to transition to coaching life. But as he gets more and more comfortable that should diminish and his day-in-day-out routine will become simpler.
"I'm enjoying this. Obviously, it has been a process learning a lot through all this with good people and a good coaching staff," Turgeon said. "I love being on ice. I love being with the boys out there and I really enjoy that part too. It has been great."