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The Daily Chum: Marc Bergevin learned a lesson about seatbelts

2015 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

A seatbelt won’t help you if you don’t wear it. That’s a lesson Marc Bergevin learned this summer when he traded a veritable superstar and possible future hall of famer for an aging defender who is almost certainly past his prime.

What will almost certainly go down as one of the worst trades in Montreal Canadiens history (the only reason it might not is because they’ve made a couple stinkers in the past) could have been prevented. This is true for all trades, obviously, but a new bit of information from Eric Engels makes this particularly interesting.

A source told Sportsnet that Matt Pfeffer, who was hired as an analytics consultant at the beginning of the 2015-16 season, made an impassioned and elaborate presentation to management to dissuade them from following through on this trade.

Ignoring Pfeffer’s advice only served to reinforce the notion that Bergevin was following different criteria in his evaluation of both players, said the source, who also suggested Pfeffer’s vehemence on the matter might have ultimately cost him the job (he was told on Wednesday that his contract won’t be renewed). The Canadiens would not comment on why they aren’t renewing his contract, but they did say that they are looking into other analytics solutions.

Before we go further, let’s note that this information comes from an unnamed source and that we can’t say with certainty that it’s true. Furthermore, there could be any number of reasons why Pfeffer was let go from being a bad fit to telling Bergevin he was making the worst trade in Montreal history.

That isn’t really what I want to get after here, though. People get fired from their jobs all the time, and while I imagine Pfeffer would prefer to still be working with the Canadiens there’s something to be said about working somewhere you’re wanted. Maybe he can give Subban a call so he can talk to someone who knows what that’s like.

When a team brings an analytics guy into the front office, they should be looking for another voice — often a dissenting voice. Someone who shakes off the groupthink in the room and makes the entrenched members of the front office contemplate their biases.

The reality, of course, is that teams probably bring in an analyst who will affirm what the team already believes. That’s an oversimplification, but there might be some truth to it if Pfeffer’s impassioned plea to keep Subban fell on deaf ears. Why hire an analyst if you’re not going to listen to them?

It’s likely more complicated than that, of course. Using corsi and fenwick does not guarantee innovation or success and blindly following what one 25 year old has to say is a pretty solid strategy if you’re a general manager hoping to get fired.

But if you’re unwilling to listen to an analyst on a trade that in absolutely no circumstance should have been made, when will you listen to them? Pfeffer’s dismissal answers that question for Bergevin.

Many NHL teams have a fancy-stats-specialist in their front offices, but don’t take that to mean that person’s work is inherently valued by the team. Their place in the office is only as valuable as how often the general manager listens to them. As Bergevin found out, that seat belt isn’t going to save your life if you don’t wear it.