The Detroit Red Wings captain and identity is retiring today. He’s been a loyal soldier. He’s been a great defensemen. He’s been the fulcrum by which the Illitch family and their staff have moved the hockey world. In short he’s been the best thing to happen to the Detroit Red Wings in the past three decades.
The smooth skating Swede is rightly lionized for what he did and was. He piled up points every season with ease. His positioning was impeccable. Lidstrom personified the immutable, and unflappable anchor so many teams have spent years chasing. Cool, calm and competent even in the face of oncoming power forwards like Jarome Iginla. Quietly able to quench the talents of Crosby and Malkin in their first Stanley Cup meeting even in the face of advancing age. There wasn’t much he couldn’t do.
But was is he the greatest defensemen of all time? No top five? Also no. He played the bulk of his career against and with some of the players who belong in that discussion and never won a single Norris trophy until he was along in an era of unusual scarcity of great defensemen. He played against Brian Leetch, Raymond Bourque, Al MacGinnis and Paul Coffey and never won a single trophy until after they were long past their primes or retired. He played against some good defensemen, but as soon as the neighborhood got crowded again, Duncan Keith and Zdeno Chara claimed the trophy rightfully, and Shea Weber was robbed of at least one as well.
Should Red Wing fans, indeed all hockey fans respect the career of Lidstrom? Absolutely. But the competition he played against at the height of his physical and mental prowess was not the crucible that the legendary defensemen faced. He didn’t innovate the position as Orr did, he didn’t have to carry the team himself as others on the list of all time greats have. I can’t imagine any circumstance in which he isn’t a first ballot hall of inductee, which he certainly deserves.
Most of the Bruins needs this year are depth needs, and none are the difference between the team making the playoffs next year and not. Long term they might be, and given the some of the players currently on the roster or in the system, they are still strong concerns.
1: Power Forward. If they can draft an NHL ready power forward that’s great. If they can pick one up at a reasonable price from another team, also good provided the player is under thirty, preferably under 25. The best of both worlds would be drafting one, and picking up an RFA or trading one for other prospects.
2: Two way defenseman. Dougie Hamilton has enormous gifts of reach, speed, size and shot. In two year of following his progress I’ve yet to see one person comment favorably on his defensive ability and that’s a problem the organization needs to address. At some point even athletes as well conditioned as Chara (age 35), Seidenberg (age 30) and Ference (age 33) either age out or price themselves out of the market. Without that defensive acumen the team would be back to the days when the best defenseman on the team would probably struggle to hold down the number four spot on a playoff team.
3: Size The two largest top nine forwards under contract for the Boston Bruins next season that finished this season healthy are Lucic and Bergeron. You can argue Caron’s place but even he’s not that large. The teams that are winning are all physically larger and more powerful than the Bruins. The defense isn’t much better off. Only three regular from last season are over 200lbs, and Torey Krug’s poise and speed aside he’s the smallest man on the team.
4: Hunger whoever is added, should have something to prove. Be it a scapegoat from another city, someone who fell short in the juniors or college, or maybe a long wayward prospect who’s finally ready to come over to North America to play. There’s entirely too many meek players on the team and not enough fire eaters.
5: Attitude no matter what the players brought in or promoted needs to be an every day player. Someone who will go out and play every game like ti might be their last. “Big game players” are a waste of 50+ games a year of ice time and money. The team has had those, and probably has at least one on the roster. Adding more turns the team into the Red Sox or something damn close to it.
Looking back at the last several weeks of Bruins play there are some things that are readily apparent, like:
less capable replacements
mid season boredom
some atrocious calls by on ice officials and the office of Player Safety
What’s less apparent is that up until his injury, the Bruins were sliding Tuukka Rask into just about every other game. It started in late December, and continued on from there. Unlike years past where Thomas would get six or seven games then Rask one or two, Thomas for five or six, then Rask in one half of a back to back, then Thomas again for several games. The rinse and repeat continued unless one of the two had a much better record against a given opponent.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or Jack Adams winner to notice Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas have different playings styles. Rask is a methodical butterfly goalie. He very rarely goes even one step outside the crease and the number of times he’s gone two steps outside the crease while play is below the dots can probably be counted on one hand. He plays upright, and in a very similar manner to goalies like Lundqvist. He’s also played well so far playing just the few games at a time and seems to wear down after five or six. In comparison to his crease crony he’s pretty passive in game play. Sure milk crates fear his very shadow, but other players?
Tim Thomas on the other hand uses what some have called the “battlefly” style. He’s aggressive. He’s athletic. He’s rarely still. He’ll come three or four steps outside the crease if he feels more confident about making the save half a dozen times a game and not consider it worth noticing. He’ll initiate contact with opponents. If he figured out how to do it and thought it would help he’d split himself in three to make saves.
While neither goalie is anyway an adept puck handler, where they leave the puck for their defenseman is often a little different. In addition to their playing style there’s a couple physical differences. Thomas looks like the “Tank” he is sometimes called. He’s shorter than Rask, barrel chested, and about thirty pounds heavier. Rask is whipcord over bone, tall, gangly and absolutely needs to make sure his shoulders are square on every shot to have a chance at saving it. He’s got much the same physical body type as David Krejci, but is even skinnier and several inches taller. The biggest similarity between the two is that both catch with their left hand.
All of these differences present adjustment difficulties for the skaters. Standing three strides out of the crease with Rask in net means you’re well clear of his comfort zone and likely have room to pivot and retrieve any pucks that leak through or hit him and fall straight in front of him. That same distance out is well within Thomas’s comfort zone. Then there’s the height difference. Neither is going to be able to see over Chara, McQuaid or Lucic, but if Ference, Bergeron, or one much of the team have their edges set for a puck battle either should be able to see over or around them depending on the angle, but Rask will have a slight advantage. Thomas has a better lateral range of the two by virtue of having a better glove, and rarely going down into a butterfly until a puck is inbound.
Most of the the time the two have shared the crease there has been a much wider split in games played, and barring injuries one subbed in for the other only intermittently. As different as their physical attribute are, and their playing styles making the adjustment two or three times a month at most may have kept players more aware of the difference and what they meant for their play. The constant back and forth in the weeks heading up to the Rask injury may have thrown all parties off.
When you look at some of the other teams to win the cup recently and what they did in their next year, most of it isn’t pretty. Duncan Keith had a bad year after the Cup win, by comparison Chara’s average to slightly above year is pretty nice. Zetterberg played two more games, and scored 20 less points they year after winning the Cup, Lucic has 12 games left to the season and is only 9 points off of last years total. Marc-Andre Fluery’s save percentage took a tumble year over year, oddly enough he started off the year strong, and had a stumble with a train wreck of a month towards this time of year and then bounced back in his post-Cup year. Even Nicklas Lidstrom had a down year in the post-Cup year.
With all the travel that the Bruins saw for the Eastern Conference finals schlepping back and forth from far north to far south in the US, not to mention a seven game series started without their best forward, then added to the cross continental 3 time zone shift four times and seven games and losing a top winger its not surprising they are having issues even this long later. Detroit, Chicago, and Pittsburgh all had much shorter trips between home and away. Chicago played Philly, Pittsburgh and Detroit played each other both years and none of those cities are all that far apart. The year after their Cup wins, Detroit finished with less points, Chicago finished not just with less points but made the playoffs on the last day. As disconcerting as what we’re seeing is, it isn’t unprecedented or even as bad as it could be.
Trickle Down Weariness
The injury front presents a couple less apparent problems. Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley both went out it put bigger than apparent holes in the team. Horton’s physicality and size on a a team that is pretty small up front can’t be be overlooked. Of the top nine forwards left, when he went out only Lucic was over 200lbs. Krejci, Marchand, (Hamill), Seguin are all under 190lbs. Taking away that added ability to not just throw big hits, but withstand them and maintain control of the puck is huge. Add in his willingness to drop the gloves and pound the snot out of someone and you’ve got a second problem. The elephant in the room however is his powerplay production. Despite the slow start and the time missed, he’s still third on the team in powerplay goals.
Rich Peverley’s injury created it’s own fault lines and widened the ones left by the loss of Horton. Rich Peverley’s speed has always put him in the top tier of the NHL’s forwards. Unlike a lot of the company he keeps there he has not just straight line speed but an ability to go side to side and make sudden stops and starts that is very nearly unparallelled. Taking that speed and agility out means you’re left with Marchand and Seguin in the top nine with game changing speed, both of whom are smaller than Peverley and one of whom isn’t nearly as physical. When you drill into the stats and look at who does what on the team you find he’s still second in powerplay assists despite almost a month out. What’s worse is where he plays his special teams time. Most of his powerplay time is done at the point allowing one or more defensemen to rest, and he has averaged nearly two minutes a game of shorthanded time on ice. That extra time has either gone to the already burdened Bergeron or Kelly, or slipped to Krejci and Marchand.
Caution Contents Easily Damaged
As if the physical injuries weren’t bad enough, the teams psyche has gotten fragile enough to make Rick Dipietro look like the model for endurance. The game against the Florida Panthers they put in their best effort in weeks right up until the Panthers second goal went in. Then the Panthers could have been replaced by some the LincolnStars of the USHL, and still lost the game. I have no idea where the team that saw Nathan Horton get nearly decapitated at center ice and then come back to curb stomp the opposition went. Michael Ryder, Kaberle and Recchi moving on are insufficient reason for this many guys who have been there and done that to fall apart at the first sign of things not going their way.
The powerplay that had been in the top third of the league before the slump is now 14th. The penalty kill that was top five is now ninth. In comparison to the playoffs last year their hitting is down, as are their blocked shots. Worse what they are doing in front of the net is creating problems for the the goalies. Instead of committing to blocking a shot or letting the goalie see it, skaters are routinely setting screens. The puck will go in off their body or between two or more Bruins skaters on the way to the net. The shot shirking is bad enough it reminds me of various thankfully departed defensemen from years past.
Open Armed Welcome
When opposing players get to the crease, behind the net in that god awful trapezoid, or park themselves in the low slot no one does anything. It isn’t just Corvo who looks at opponents and wonders how long they have to think about getting a good draft at The Greatest Bar before whoever it is goes away. The softest most contact aversive forward in the league can now stand anywhere he likes and know for certain no one will drop him on his backside. Skate into the crease after the whistle? No problem. I’m honestly surprise the guys haven’t put a visitors sports bottle on the net for them.
Front Of Leadership
I think the trade deadline sent a very clear message to the team:
We’ve got our hands over our eyes.
The best piece they traded away was Steve Kampfer, and got less in return. What the brought in were pieces they clearly don’t see any real use for. None of the three has a contract that runs past the end of the season. None of the three addresses a need at the time or now. Rolston does not have Horton’s physicality. Rolston does not have Peverley’s speed. Rolston also does not have their scoring ability. Zanon and Mottau haven’t eased Chara’s penalty kill minutes. Zanon and Mottau haven’t taken up any of the scoring slack on a very low scoring defense. Zanon and Mottau aren’t injecting any real speed, physicality or poise into the lineup. When you come right down to it these guys fit the team the arrived too and not the team that is supposed to be here.
Chara, Ference, Seidenberg, Boychuk, McQuaid, Corvo have as a unit sucked ass not played to their potential of late. The most telling is Chara who has not only made poor decisions but been knocked down more often than Steve Rogers before he gets zapped and juiced into Captain America. He’s not skating well, he’s not shooting well, he’s not thinking well, and well you do the math. The rest of the defense, and much of their team plays to a similar level as their captain. He honestly looks nearly as sick as he did when he was held out of the Montreal series last spring.
Ference had his injury we all hope isn’t a return to the bad old days of the hobbled by a hinky groin Captain Planet. McQuaid and Seidenberg who are generally quite reliable defensively have just been off lately in a way that’s hard to nail down, it could be exhaustion, frustration or disgust, the shifts the two played together the other day made them significantly less than the sum of their parts. Boychuk has finally found his offensive gear again, but is also getting battered physically and not doing the battering.
Corvo for all that he often plays like a second pairing AHL guy has had several games where he looked like a legitimate NHL defensemen lately. Which is problematic in that it means much like another defenseman I could name you never know what you’re going to get from him.
As a group they are showing up and displaying the worst of their habits, they dally, shirk and shuffle across the ice without purpose or volition. It doesn’t take a hockey genius to know this is not a winning formula.
What’s wrong with the Bruins goaltending?
As a pair, I think the biggest issue is they have lost confidence in the team in front of them. Particularly the dallyfense. No ones hitting guys in or around the crease, no ones crushing anyone along the boards. guys aren’t getting chased down in the slot for the puck. Despite their faults, both have superb save percentages this year and say what you want neither of these two is responsible for the teams issues.
Rask: I don’t think that his knee was at 100% to start the season, and I’d lay money there was soreness a couple times during the year. Before the injury he’d lost six straight games. That isn’t normal for any good goalie. Whether you believe he’s “the goalie of the future and elite” or “an above average backup and second teir #1″ six in a row is a bad thing, and you can’t blame him for most of it.
Thomas: Fatigue is part of the problem here. With last seasons games, the cup run and now this season, he’s played about as much action as many goalies will see in three seasons in just the last eighteen months. A bigger part is not getting into a rhythm. As a rule Thomas has played his best hockey in the regular season going seven out of ten or more. With the management choice to play Rask more, this hasn’t happened often.
What’s wrong with the Bruins as a whole?
There are three major issues with this team as group:
1: Injuries both those keeping people out, and those lowering performance theres a lot of downed talent. Of all the guys who missed the last game, or went out and didn’t finish the last game they have $18,332,143 in this cap space out of action. To put that in perspective, the three stars of the week 1: Ilya Kovalchuk, 2: Ilya Bryzgalov and 3: Jaroslav Halak have a combined cap hit of $16,083,334, meaning you could add them and still not equal the whole in the roster.
2: Fatigue. It’s true for the goalies, and just as true for the skates. The last game was a perfect example of why. Chara took at least two big hits per shift, as did Boychuk. Marchand gets leaned on, grabbed and shoved on a regular basis, Lucic as well. Add in the stress of knowing the team isn’t as deep as it should be due to other injuries and you’ve got enough to slow anyone down.
3: A certain us against the world fatalism. The suspensions to Bruins players for plays identical to or worse than their own contribute to a strong and justifiable belief that nothing is going to happen to anyone who crosses the line against them and that they will be punished out of proportion to their own actions. If you think the Marchand hit was suspendable, that’s fine. But in the same week, the same department handed out a shorter suspension for a blatant head shot.
No matter what danger a hit to the leg might cause to someones career it in no way exceeds a flagrant attempt to decapitate someone. Add in the Ference suspension, and then the fact that there weren’t even hearings for the hit by Sestito that may have ended Horton’s career, and the hit by Malkin that left Boychuk reeling to the list. Confusion is the most charitable thing the nicest of the Bruins has to be feeling, but given the level of assertiveness on this team disgust is probably a bit more common and hadly the most warm and cuddly. Whichever emotions they are, they all have a physical cause to maintain.
What’s wrong with the Bruins Coaching?
If you think a team that’s seen one third of the opening night roster off the ice for a quarter of the ice has a problem with coaching you need better drugs. When the teams speed is pulled out from under it, when the unit that it draws it’s identity from, it’s defense, is both damaged and saddled with at least one sub-professional player that is not a coaching issue. Line changes have been proactive, defensive pairs have been tried, but no coach can make players healthier or more skilled.
The Bruins are in a decent position in the standings. They do have injuries to two key forwards and have shown little ability to replace them internally. It’s likely that Peter and Cam will want to add without subtracting again (even if that is unlikely) so I don’t expect anything huge. Here’s a look at some of the players and prospects who might attract some attention or who fans might be worried could be moved:
Negative move potential:
Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, Tim Thomas. These four are the magic smoke in the machine and without them the team does nothing, and goes no where. It isn’t that there aren’t teams with the assets on paper to buy one of them it is that they have more value to the Bruins because of who they are than any even moderately insane return could provide.
Tuukka Rask, Brad Marchand, Dougie Hamilton, Jared Knight, Dennis Seidenberg. Either for today and the playoff run or the future these are key pieces. None is quite irreplaceable but the return would have to be unequivocally in the Bruins favor and have an immediate and long term impact.
Ryan Spooner, Alex Khoklachev, Chris Kelly, Adam McQuaid, Tyler Seguin, Andrew Ference. This group is all players the Bruins would like or very much like to keep, but who have enough value without being completely indispensable either because of depth at that position, contract status or time on ice for the team.
Johnny Boychuk, Daniel Paille, Shawn Thornton, Tommy Cross. The first three have value to the Bruins, and while other teams might want them none is likely to be the center of a trade. Cross is in the end of his senior season in college and the Bruins have invested a lot in the local guy and have to be expecting some return on it next season either in Providence or with the big club.
David Krejci, 1st round pick this year, Jordan Caron, Justin Florek, Krejci has been moved from center to wing lately and appears to have come alive, a first round pick this year if the team plays well will be somewhere in the 20+ range so a player who could he had for another year is a reasonable return, Caron probably doesn’t fit the Bruins system despite some flashes of high potential and good hockey sense. Justin Florek is having a good senior season at Northern Michigan University, and owns more than enough potential to be a key component in a trade for a team retooling.
If the Bruins do make a move, anyone expecting a blockbuster move will be sorely disappointed. From the pieces already taken off the market by trade or new contracts there is a chance they don’t make any trades at all. If they do make a trade look for guys who are going to play second or third line roles for forwards, or 3-6 rang defensemen. I wouldn’t even be surprised to see a retread come through the door.
Over the last several weeks we’ve seen all sorts of writing, heard tons of radio and watched countless hours of hockey coverage on where Rick Nash will go, where he’s needed and where he’s not needed. If a team can or can’t afford him is another question that’s been beaten from dead horse to glue, ditto the price of getting him and his contract. The question that hasn’t been asked is: What city or cities would be best for Nash? Leaving aside the cities that don’t have a shot at even the playoffs this year, and teams in the division there are still a few cities that need to be looked at.
The Habs are in chaos and he has two things the team could use: Talent and Size. He’s played most or all of his career against Weber and Suter so playing against Chara and Myers isn’t going to be too much of an adjustment. What Montreal sends back while an important question isn’t really relevant. To the best of my knowledge Nash doesn’t speak French, and has not ever experienced the media storm that would bury him approximately one millisecond after his plane landed. I honestly can’t seem him thriving under it either.
The problem with the Leafs isn’t on the front end. Sure Nash is an upgrade in one way or another over every forward on the team. The media wouldn’t be much less intense than in Montreal, if at all and with his family hailing from Ontario, I can see the constant attention of family members being a distraction. Probably not the best destination.
The Canucks probably don’t need him at all. And let’s face it, this is a city that’s been tearing apart Luongo for years. Last year he wasn’t even the major issue in the Cup finals. Luongo walked out of the building with a better save percentage than the two goalies who won in previous years. The fans are not quite fair in their evaluations of their players, and while he’s hugely talented, and could form a formidable trio with the Sedins or on a line with Kesler and Booth one wonders where the cap space is going to come from.
New York :
Assuming the Rangers decided to fundamentally alter the fabric of their team, Nash has a decent change of flying under the radar as long as he performs to a reasonable level. Gaborik, Richards, Lundqvist, Staal have been the big names attached to this team for long enough that Nash can slide in behind them. That said, it is New York, even if the media isn’t as virulent as the three Canadian cities, or Boston it’s still a strong force.
If his salary were a little lower this might be an excellent fit. Unfortunately with a salary higher than Chara’s he’d have to move mountains and even then my readers at the CBS radio station would never let up. Any time he went three games without a goal the dollar figure would be trotted out. This says nothing of the local papers who would start in with “soft” and trend downhill rapidly. On top of that whoever was given up would be thrown at the public as the solution to what was wrong with the team by certain highly active folks on social media any time the team lost.
When all is said and done, assuming the team can retain; Richards, Kopitar, Brown, and Quick, the Kings become a power in the west. Nash gets to a competitive team with a press presence that probably pays more attention to which of Hollywood’s elite is in the stands that game than what’s going on in the standings. Mere hockey players regardless of salary just don’t stand out in So Cal.
Those are some of the names that have been trotted out most frequently, but there are two more cities that might just make sense if the general managers are willing to part with the right assets, and have the budget to bankroll his salary and a competitive roster around him. One is a team known for anything but offense since it came into the league, the other is merely offensively starved over the last few seasons.
This is a team that was in first pretty late into the season with a ton of injuries to forwards, defense and goaltenders and probably ran their top ten or fifteen AHL prospects through the system just to keep the wheels on the bus. They have to have a good idea of who and what they can part with and as long as Koivu, and Heatley are still on the Wild when all is said and done the team is stronger.
The Jets sit just a point or two out of playoffs, and have a desperate need for offense. They’d end up selling most of the farm, probably including Mark Sheifele to land Nash. With him in the fold for a full season they probably become the instant favorite to with the division next year. The idea of a power play with Kane, Byfugelien, Little and Nash has to appeal to more than a few folks, at least as long as they don’t have to face it. While Winnipeg is as hockey mad as the rest of Canada, it’s still a fairly small city and can’t support the media load that is drawn to New York City, Toronto, or Montreal.
Wherever he ends up, assuming he leaves Columbus at all the team needs to consider if he’ll survive the environment they are putting him into as well as the simpler mathematics of salary and trade compensation. The Carter situation is the perfect example of what happens to an organization that doesn’t consider the impact on the player before acquiring them.
The Boston Bruins need a tweak or two. That’s undeniable what they don’t need is a large scale or large salary swap out. Injecting the wrong player, or removing one who is a key contributor is counter productive. It amounts to pouring sugar in the gas tank in the final smoke test before a race.
So who are the key components? In any order you care to put them the core of personality, ability and on ice impact are: Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, and Tim Thomas. Each of these four is a huge part of the teams identity.
Bergeron is the every thing man on the team. He hits, he blocks shots, he scores he makes passes and plays in all three zones and all situations. Zdeno Chara is the Zeus upon Olympus tossing down titans and defending what’s his in a way no one else can. Tim Thomas is an emotional catalyst, an elite goaltender and capable of stealing games and series. Milan Lucic is a monster, when he’s got his legs he’s the heartbeat of the team. His physicality spreads up and down the line up.
Each of these guys would be very difficult to replace with any other single player. Bergeron for Toews is passable, but the Blackhawks wouldn’t part with their captain, and the trade improves neither team significantly. A Lucic for Perry trade would be a similar level of physicality, and an offensive upgrade but complicates the already neck deep center position and greatly weakens the Bruins left wing.
Rick Nash is a goal scoring forward who’s having a down year, and also has a huge contract. He’s not especially physical, so flipping him for Lucic means a loss in one category for a noticeable but not really needed upgrade in another. Swapping him for Krejci probably means you end up with a line with not enough pucks to go around unless you’re looking at Lucic left with Nash sliding to center and a role player at right wing, much as say Byron Bitz is filling with the Sedins.
When a team has an identity, and success changing it’s core or threatening it’s identity is not how you make it better. The teams in the NHL that don’t have an identity aren’t very successful. The Montreal Canadiens this year are to put it kindly, in flux and need to figure out a recipe for success and hold on to it. Similarly the Washington Capitals have no unified identity and most of the best known players play like individuals. Trades for a team that has held the first spot in their division for most of the season, have some good prospects in juniors college should be players that compliment or enhance who the team already is, not radically change it.
Assuming the Bruins are adding a forward, it should be someone with a bit of snarl to their game, reasonably similar ability to Horton and good size. Ideally they would develop similar chemistry to Lucic and Horton, but other pairings are possible. In the unlikely event they developed a bromance that rivaled Jared Knight (@JKnight97) and Ryan Spooner (@RSpooner2376) so much the better, having more than one player you sync with on the ice never hurt a team. A defenseman is probably needed as much as a forward for depth. Since a certain Bean Pot champions captain is unlikely to be available, they need someone who can come in like Adam McQuaid and push other players to be better. For my money guys on expiring deals, or reasonable deals with one year remaining make a whole not more sense than big name guys.
Twoguys you should hope your team is selecting or trading for in the next NHL entry draft have their blogs up about the top prospect game. via @NHLAdamK
A recap of the top prospects skills competition featuring some future competition for Zdeno Chara and Carl Hagelin.- Dominic Tiano
The dog days of the season have a slightly different meaning for the captain of the St Louis Blues. via Deadspin
No Show Joe was at it again last night in Columbus. – Fear The Fin
If your team is in need of some size and shutdown ability on the blueline, this guy might just be the answer. – Dan Sallows
With the trade deadline rolling down on us, its time to add a defensemen to the list of guys who want to be elsewhere currently headed by Jeff Carter and Antero Nittymaki, Marek Zidlicky has apparently started the blowback in Minnesota. – Hockey Wilderness
Thanks to everyone who linked here or retweeted me, I hit a new high in traffic last month.