Montreal sports analytics company SportLogIQ is rumoured to be working with the Montreal Canadiens on applying advanced statistics to improving real-world hockey outcomes, according to a report by Marc Antoine Godin of La Presse.
Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said last week at a press conference that the hockey club was looking to replace outgoing analytics consultant Matt Pfeffer, whose contract was abruptly not renewed in the wake of the decision to trade Habs defenceman P.K. Subban.
“It’s not an exact science,” said Bergevin to reporters. “We’re trying to improve and to bring in people who can help us, but it remains a tool. It’s not the answer to every question. Slowly, not quickly, we’ll get better with the help of science.”
There’s no indication in the La Presse article whether Bergevin was being sarcastic, or if he was sporting his trademark “I would rather not be discussing this with you” smirk when delivering his assessment to assembled media.
“If he had it his way, he’d never discuss this trade again,” said an anonymous NHL general manager to Elliotte Friedman on the subject of the franchise’s decision to cut arguably its star player loose in favour of Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber.
Bergevin didn’t specify exactly how the Montreal Canadiens planned to replace Pfeffer, but “a rumour” repeated by Godin puts the Habs among SportLogIQ’s clients.
In July 2015, entrepreneur Mark Cuban participated in a $1.7 million seed funding round for SportLogIQ.
Founded in 2014, the technology behind SportLogIQ was developed by co-founder and CTO Mehrsan Javan as his PhD thesis at McGill University, under the supervision of Martin Levine.
The SportLogIQ platform is now far more sophisticated than the system originally developed by Javan, using computer vision, machine learning algorithms and Big Data analysis to track players and capture a wide range of approximately 130 actionable game-related stats.
Advanced stats is still mostly scoffed at in hockey, mostly by fans but even at the highest levels in the NHL, even though the use of analytics has transformed and become an indispensable part of the sport of baseball, as chronicled in Michael Lewis’ 2003 book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game“.
Analytics consultant Matt Pfeffer lost his job with the Montreal Canadiens shortly after making “an impassioned presentation to team management opposing the P.K. Subban trade to the Nashville Predators for defenceman Shea Weber” this past June.
One can only conclude from Pfeffer’s dismissal either that the Montreal Canadiens’ management didn’t take Pfeffer and his advanced statistics very seriously, or that the Subban-Weber trade was made for some other intangible set of non-hockey reasons, such as that Subban didn’t “play the right way” or some gut-related criteria.
In any case, it’s an illustration of just how far hockey still lags behind other sports, baseball in particular, in using advanced statistics and analytics in gaining a competitive edge over other teams and understanding the finer points of the game.