Meet Michael Perelman, the “numbers guy” for the St. Louis Blues


Bill Motchan, Special For The Jewish Light

Like it or not, numbers are as much a part of professional sports as the play on the field, diamond, or ice.

While most credit MLB for initiating the move to bring statistical analytics to how sports teams play the games and build their organization, the NHL and the St. Louis Blues have caught up in a big way.

We recently sat down with Michael Perelman, the Director of Hockey Analytics for the team.

Briefly describe your job?

I oversee anything that has to do with analytics on the hockey side and work with the coaching staff before and after games. I help (President of Hockey Operations and GM) Doug Armstrong with free agency analysis, trade analysis, and from a number, perspective determine if we should go after a player.


Does every NHL team have to have a hockey analytics specialist to be competitive?

I think they do. Baseball was the first sport to emphasize analytics. It’s becoming a more important part of and an extension of management. It is growing exponentially in the NHL.

Do you look at things like the probability of a hockey shot going in the net?

It’s hard because there are so many factors that are out of your control, like the bounce of the puck and cracks in the ice. It’s not a one-on-one sport, not pitcher against batter like in baseball. We look at what’s called “expected goals” which are the number of quality shots you create in dangerous areas in and around the net. The more of those quality shots you create the better the probability that you’ll score.

Did you play hockey as a kid?

I grew up in Toronto, the mecca of hockey. Everyone eats, sleeps, breathes hockey. I really wanted to play but my parents said, “You’re too small (5-foot-7), you’ll get hurt.” I had a passion for the game, so I aspired to get into management. And I was always curious about numbers, team standings and tracking who the best players were.

The Winter Classic on New Year’s Day was played outdoors in extremely cold conditions in Minneapolis. Did you help prepare the team in any way for that game?

We did look at certain things. David Alexander, the goaltender coach, reached out to me and asked if there were any differences in penalties being called outdoors versus in a regular game. We looked at past Winter Classic games, and the average number of penalties per game was eight. On average in a regular game, it’s six. So we pointed that out and said they needed to be prepared and it ended up being seven penalties in our game.

You’re from Canada. Would you have dressed in shorts and beachwear outdoors that day like the Blues players who did and became an internet sensation?

I don’t think so. Back home in Toronto we get a lot of snow but the cold in Minnesota that day was extreme. I probably would have quickly gotten frostbite.

Did you have a hockey-themed bar mitzvah?

Oh yeah! It was during the NHL lockout in 2012 and we had T-shirts that read “Who needs hockey when you’ve got Mikey’s bar mitzvah?” We had hockey figurines and the color scheme was blue and white for the Maple Leafs because I was a huge fan.