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Anthony Weiner Gave Us Ten Minutes At The DNC To Talk Hockey

The Democratic National Convention hosted a who’s-who of prominent Democratic figures. Thursday I met with former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, who represented New York’s 9th congressional district from 1999 through 2011 and recently ran for mayor of New York. Weiner is a lifelong hockey fan and currently plays goalie for a recreational league team, so we talked about the state of hockey analytics, the Subban-Weber trade, and what he’s been watching this offseason.

Walt Hickey: How long have you been a hockey fan?

Anthony Weiner: My first good memories of being a hockey fan [were when] I started following the Islanders when they came into the league. It was probably like the mid-1970s I was old enough to get into sports. I’m not like a lot of your readers. I’m not someone who can tell you the 1984 Pittsburgh Penguins lineup, but, yeah.

WH: What do you make of the offseason so far?

AW: The Las Vegas expansion is interesting to me. I want to see if that’s going to work. I always assumed growing up that the reason you don’t expand to Las Vegas was the influence of gambling, but now that gaming is so pervasive everywhere, they’re like football; they want to get a piece of the action. I have emotional connection to teams like the Nordiques [a defunct Quebec professional team], and so it’s kind of interesting watching that. I’m obviously interested in seeing what the Islanders do.

WH: You think they make the playoffs next year?

AW: Oh, they’ll make the playoffs. In fairness, it was the Saturday before the season began last year where they got [Nick] Leddy and [Johnny] Boychuk, they’ve done some things late that have been pretty dramatic, so maybe they’ll do something late here. The trades that they made — not the literal trades, but the trading that they’ve done when we lost [Kyle] Okposo and [Frans] Nielsen, we lost in those trades, so I imagine they’re going to do something more. But they’ll make the playoffs. Even though that East is tough, the Rangers are much worse too.

WH: What do you make of the deplorable state of advanced hockey analytics compared to other professional sports?

AW: I’m one of the few people that thinks CORSI analytics, that stuff, is actually interesting to me. I think it’s additional information. In the summers we play four on four with no icing, and so my goals against average goes up in the summer maybe 10 percent. One player on the ice that’s 10 percent better than his opposite number can wreck havoc.

Things that talk about possession and how many net shots are being shot as a way of understanding what’s going on, it’s helpful. I mean it’s not a substitute for watching the games. But they give you something more. These things also give you something to argue about and talk about, which is half the fun. Like when people argue about salaries, it’s not their money, but still it doesn’t make it any less of something you want to argue about and how it affects the cap, and is Bobby Bonilla still on the Mets’ payroll, stuff like that. These analytics do give us something else to argue about. Hockey by definition is harder to reduce to zeros and ones and put into a big spreadsheet than other sports are.

WH: Do you think Sidney Crosby could be the greatest ever?

AW: I just don’t think you can compare across eras. You look at the old film of hockey when I was growing up watching in the ’70s and ’80s. And you got these tiny goalies who had this bad equipment, so they never developed certain moves that the goalies today do all the time. There’s a reason why goalies didn’t do a slide from post to post then. They didn’t have the pads that have the protection and landing gear that allow them to do it. If Glenn Resch had that stuff? I think it’s really hard to do.

The other thing is you develop tools to analyze stuff as you grow up. No one was more dominant from moment to moment as a pure goal scorer than Mike Bossy was. But it was a different kind of weird era. Wayne Gretzky was a great player that never got checked. Crosby, he’s playing in a league at a time when you’re going to get checked. So I don’t know how you do it is my way of not answering that question.

WH: Who do you think the best goalie in the league is right now?

AW: There’s different kind of styles. [Carey] Price, I think, if he comes back and he’s healthy, is just a great tactical goalie, almost flawless. He competes on every shot.

By the way, I wrote about this for Business Insider. I wrote a column for them. The Kings were playing the Rangers in the Stanley Cup, and I was living a block away from the Garden, and I was like, “I’ll cover the Stanley Cup for you. You don’t have to pay me a dime.” Plus, I was going to the West Coast for one of the games, so I figured I’d get press credentials or something. I’d go to the games. No dice! So I’m stuck writing these effing columns.

So I did this one column about how [Henrik] Lundqvist and [Jonathan] Quick were the most highly evolved goalies of their different styles — Lundqvist being the positional blocking goalie, Quick being the low-to-the-ice reacting goalie. A lot of folks think Quick is overrated, and he had a rough playoffs; I still think physically he’s amazing. To be that low to the ice and that powerful from side to side, that’s superhuman the stuff he does. But Lundqvist, his ability to play so deep in the crease and be so large, and have his angles so perfectly that he never seems to be out of position, you’ve got to give it to him.

You basically only get beaten in the modern NHL on deflections and screens, and one goalie, Quick, is as fast at responding and seeing through a screen as anyone else, and the other goalie has just found ways to be positionally really deep so that extra split second he’s in a position that stops. In the evolution of goalies, those are the two highest evolved goalies I’ve seen.

WH: What did you make of the continued reluctance to extend the Zadroga Act1 from some parts of Congress?

AW: To some degree it’s a reflection of what’s gone wrong in the days since I went to Washington in the ’80s as a staffer, got elected in 1998, and to when I left, in that there was a merit argument that you can make on things that transcended. Not always. Sometimes there were philosophical problems. But now there’s not. If it’s a Democratic thing, the Republicans don’t want to do it by and large, and if it’s a Republican thing, the Democrats don’t want to do it by and large. Much more the former than the latter in my view. And there’s no better example in the modern times than the Zadroga Act. No one can make a merit argument against it. It was basically, “We don’t want to do it because we don’t want to give you guys any new government program without respect to how good it is or whether it’s been vetted or whatever.”

WH: Wrapping it up, who’s your sleeper pick to win the cup this year?

AW: I still think the Predators are due to break through.

WH: Because of the trade? [Montreal traded P.K. Subban to the Predators in exchange for Shea Weber in June.]

AW: They won that trade.

WH: They won it?

AW: No doubt about it. [Subban]’s basically two years younger, much more of an impact kind of a guy. It was basically they were getting rid of his attitude problem or whatever the hell they had. So the Predators have always been — I always get burned on the Predators. I picked them to go far. They had a weird year this year. Their goaltending was off the first quarter, third of the year. I think Pekka Rinne is one of my favorite goalies. I think he’s amazing. But I don’t know. The East is super strong. The East is very strong.

Footnotes

  1. The James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act was a signature achievement for Weiner in Congress, but last year a campaign to extend the benefits to 9/11 first responders was met with substantial resistance from some members of Congress.

Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.

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