The Rochester hockey analytics conference is underway, following in the footsteps of other hockey analytics conferences that have taken place in Pittsburgh, Ottawa, and Washington D.C.
Matt Pfeffer, the Canadiens' data analyst, took part in the first panel, and gave us an interesting, albeit brief, view on how his work with the team takes place.
To start it all off, Pfeffer dismissed the notion that the Habs' coaching staff is against the use of analytics.
"I've had great success working with the [Canadiens'] coaching staff. But coaches don't want to be talked down to."
Which is an important point. Pfeffer possesses masterful knowledge when it comes to analyzing data, but the fact of the matter is that Therrien deserves a certain level of respect when discussing new concepts.
He followed it up by explaining how he passes on his knowledge.
"Michel Therrien doesn't want to see statistics. He wants to hear my opinion on statistics."
Pfeffer explained how he created an elaborate series of charts and other data visualization for a meeting with Therrien, which resulted in the coach quickly asking Pfeffer what he thought about it, rather than delving into the information himself.
A coach relying on his expert, in this case Pfeffer, to give him an opinion on a new concept is probably the ideal set up, especially considering how busy the modern NHL coach happens to be.
Pfeffer - all coaches are busy. They want final opinions, not beautiful viz work. Coaches don't have time for data analysis. #RITHAC— Sean Tierney (@SeanTierneyTSS) October 10, 2015
In addition to elaborating on his role with the Canadiens, Pfeffer gave the audience one very important piece of advice.
"Always remember that you're probably wrong." - Matt Pfeffer #RITHAC— Emmanuel Perry (@MannyElk) October 10, 2015
Essentially, be humble. Because what seems like a great idea at the time may turn out to be nothing but noisy data.
If you're interested in watching the rest of the Rochester Hockey Analytics conference, you can catch a live stream via youtube.