Pierre Turgeon talks to the media Jan. 4. ©2020, Heather Engel

Sabres at 50: Pierre Turgeon could be Buffalo’s next Hall of Famer

BUFFALO – The gaudy numbers former Sabres star Pierre Turgeon racked up during his prolific NHL career could land him in the Hockey Hall of Fame someday.

A strong argument can be made Turgeon, who retired in 2007, ranks among the best candidates still waiting for the call.

“I hear about it, a lot of people are talking,” Turgeon said of the Hall of Fame.

In 1,294 games over 19 seasons, Turgeon scored a whopping 515 goals and 1,327 points. He ranks 38th all-time in goals and 32nd in points.

Everyone ahead of him on the points list has been inducted. The nine eligible players behind him on the points list are in.

Only three retired players who scored more goals than Turgeon – Keith Tkachuk, Marian Hossa and Pat Verbeek – haven’t been elected. Turgeon compiled more points than all of them.

The 1.03 points a game Turgeon averaged over his career ranks 27th all-time.

You get the idea. Few players in NHL history have produced more offense than Turgeon.

Of course, voters weigh more than goals and points.

Turgeon never won the Stanley Cup or appeared in the final. He did, however, average at least one point a game during the two postseasons he reached the conference final.

Yes, having started his career in 1987, the slick center spent his first nine or 10 seasons playing in a high-scoring era. Still, as the NHL quickly morphed into a clutch-and-grab, low-scoring league, Turgeon kept producing offense.

In 2000-01, for example, the former first overall pick compiled 30 goals and 82 points as a 31-year-old.

Like two of his Hall of Fame teammates – Dave Andreychuk, who was elected in his ninth year of eligibility despite scoring 640 goals, and Phil Housley, the fourth-leading scorer among defensemen – Turgeon likely must wait.

The affable Turgeon, who always seems to be smiling, doesn’t get too wrapped up in whether he makes the Hall of Fame someday.

“It would be an honor, obviously,” Turgeon said. “I look back – and I always tell my wife this – I was blessed to do something I love many years. I enjoy the game, I loved it and that would be the icing on the cake.”

Turgeon returned to Buffalo earlier this month for “90s Night,” one of four decades the Sabres are celebrating during their 50th anniversary season.

For the first time, he participated in Sabres Alumni events, donning his old No. 77 jersey.

While Turgeon played for five other teams – he enjoyed a monster 53-goal, 123-point season with the New York Islanders in 1992-93 and captained the Montreal Canadiens –he quickly grew up and developed into a star with the Sabres.

He said he arrived here as a kid unable to speak a word of English. By 1989-90, he enjoyed his first 100-point season.

During a seven-minute chat Jan. 4 at KeyBank Center, Turgeon expressed gratefulness for his long career and early days in Buffalo.

“It was a great place to start,” said Turgeon, who was traded to the Islanders in the blockbuster deal for Pat LaFontaine early in 1991-92. “I love Buffalo, obviously. I was 18 years old, I was so young. I was learning a lot, especially playing with (veterans) Mike Ramsey, Lindy Ruff, Clark Gillies, Mark Napier. I was 18 years old, these guys were 20, 30.

“I always remember Clark Gillies, who had a huge beard, was sitting right beside me. I couldn’t speak a word of English and looking at him like, ‘Oh my god, I know who you are, don’t speak to me.’”

When Turgeon visited here two years ago, his assistant coaching duties with the Los Angeles Kings prevented him from exploring Buffalo.

On this trip – Turgeon resigned from the Kings after one season – he walked around and learned how the city has changed.

“The downtown area’s incredible,” he said. “It’s changing in a great way. I’m so glad that I was able to do this and come back and spend some time checking out the city and spend some time with the players.”

The Kings hired Turgeon prior to the 2017-18 season for a unique job. Instead of giving him normal duties, they utilized him as an “offensive coordinator” by having him dissect scoring chances and work closely with the players.

Turgeon enjoyed his brief foray into coaching and being back in the NHL. But the hours became too much.

He wanted to spend time with his family and watch his son, Dominic, a Detroit Red Wings prospect, play.

During his playing career, everything revolved around Turgeon. He did not want that to happen again.

“I loved being around the boys, I loved what I did,” he said. “But at the same time, it was taking so much time that it was about me again.”

The Sabres, who host the Vegas Golden Knights tonight, announced Monday the NHL Scouting Combine will remain in Buffalo through 2022.

The team began hosting the event at KeyBank Center and LECOM Harborcenter in 2015.

The Sabres had Monday off.

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