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Devils hire former pro poker player to head new analytics department

Aug 1, 2014, 10:06 AM EDT

Lou Lamoriello AP

Following the growing trend in the NHL of incorporating advanced statistics into the analysis process, the New Jersey Devils are starting an analytics department and have hired Sunny Mehta to lead it, per The Bergen Record.

Mehta, 36, was a professional poker player and authored two books on the subject. However, he has since shifted his focus to the application of advanced statistics in sports. He will report directly to Devils GM Lou Lamoriello.

Devils’ owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer liked the idea of forming this department after the NBA team they own, the Philadelphia 76ers, went that route. Lamoriello said he was “extremely open-minded to it” due to his background in math.

“Statistics have always been a part of the game,” Lamoriello said. “The word analytics is a buzzword right now. To try and stay ahead of the curve, we looked into and interviewed a lot of people.”

He added that advanced statistics are an “evolution,” but can only go so far and can’t replace traditional scouting. That is a popular view, even among strong proponents of analytics.

Related:

Here’s another story about how a hockey team is using analytics to try and win more hockey games

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