The Orange & Black Clearance Rack

The Orange & Black Clearance Rack

Given the pressures of the MLB trade deadline and the unadulterated chaos of the free agent market in the NFL, it's more than understandable for offseason hockey to have taken a back seat. It's out of sight, out of mind, and we've all been just a little more than distracted.

In spite of parting ways with not one, but two franchise centers, signing a number-one goalie and bringing into the fold one of the all-time greatest Flyer killers in franchise history, Paul Holmgren and Ed Snider's foundation-shaking moves have felt lost in the shuffle. Frankly, this week it's been easy to forget just how much turnover there's been to the Flyers' roster. Even I had let some of the moves slide into recesses of my mind.

Until, of course, I walked into my local Modell's last week.

While searching aimlessly for nothing in particular—I was actually killing time before a late afternoon showing of Bridesmaids—I stumbled upon an unusually forceful reminder of just how much this team has changed in the last two months.

Here's a question: What do you get when your general manager and owner decide to clean house and (damn near) start from scratch? Answer: A massive section of merchandise repping a whole mess of guys who've been scrubbed from the roster. Let's call it—as my buddy Jim so appropriately quipped—"The Clearance Line."

What am I talking about? Take a look at the pictures below. More than 2/3 of the Flyers apparel at this particular Modell's exists in support of an individual no longer on the team.

Though Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Ville Leino, Brian Boucher and Kris Versteeg (all pictured above and below) no longer wear the Orange & Black, there's a good chance you're still wearing their merchandise. And, on the off chance you don't already own a piece of swag showing your support for a newly-minted ex-Flyer, you can pick one up on the cheap.

T-shirts bearing the name of a franchise-expatriate are now 50% off, selling for a cool ten bucks. Still, the real savings can be found on the jersey rack. While a Chris Pronger sweater is still selling for a steep $150, Mike Richards and Jeff Carters can be had for just $50 a piece.

Here's the thing, as I'm sure we can all attest, sports fans have been known to spend obscene amounts of cash on their favorite franchises. When a team is hot, so is its merch sales (If you don't believe me, take a look at just a small portion of the Phillies gear the store is hawking in the background of one of the pictures below).

Make no mistake, some of these purchases truly are an investment. Authentic threads, especially when sold around the time of a new jersey launch, will easily run their buyer a couple hundred, if not even more. As such, it makes sense that fans would want to invest in gear that's at least assumed to have some long-term staying power.

And, come to think of it, didn't a Mike Richards Winter Classic jersey seem exactly that buy only 18 months ago? The old school white and orange pattern; the memorable winter classic patch; Mike's future as a long-term captain after inking a huge contract; it all fit.

Now, less than two years after that game and two months after their dismissal, there's something about Mike Richards and Jeff Carter merchandise that doesn't seem quite right. For me, just looking at these pictures brings forth a certain disappointment, a yearning for what could, and maybe even should, have been.

On the topic of staying power, it's not uncommon for fans to wear the t-shirt or jersey of a player no longer on the team. John LeClair, Mark Recchi, and Keith Primeau are all examples of ex-Flyers still proudly supported by fans throughout the Wells Fargo Center on game nights. In the same fashion, I have no plans on retiring my Simon Gagne jersey any time soon.

The question that now comes to mind is whether Mike Richards and Jeff Carter will share that sort of legacy. Though they may not have reached the status of a Reccs or Prims or even Gags, plenty of us own their stuff. Now that they're gone, will you still wear their names, or instead relegate Richie and Carts (and company) to the back of your closet? We encourage you to share your feelings in the comments below.

Finally, we'd be remiss if we didn't show you a picture of the merch you can still buy for full price! Set apart from the standing racks on the floor, you'll notice a skinny black stand set against the wall. This is where you'll find the goods for guys actually on the 2011 roster. And, sure enough, Jaromir Jagr and Ilya Bryzgalov t-shirts are already available for purchase.

Just as the Richards and Carter jerseys left me disappointed, the #68 pictured below left me puzzled as to the future of the team I thought I knew. Like it or not, come opening night in October, the 2011-2012 Philadelphia Flyers will look almost nothing like the team bounced in four by the Boston Bruins last May.

With that in mind, will you consider picking up any new gear? Will this latest roster turnover affect your decision to purchase or not purchase in the future? If you're still in the market, which jerseys or shirseys do you deem the "safest" moving forward?

Finally, I'd like to send a shout out to the Modell's at the Neshaminy Mall for letting me turn all their stuff around without asking. You guys rock.

No. 1 Villanova vs. La Salle: Wildcats look to stay hot vs. Explorers at Palestra

No. 1 Villanova vs. La Salle: Wildcats look to stay hot vs. Explorers at Palestra

No. 1 Villanova (8-0) at La Salle (4-2) 
7 p.m. at The Palestra

Villanova, now the top-ranked team in the country, travels to the Palestra on Tuesday night for another Big 5 game, this one against La Salle (the home team), which has won three straight games.

Let's get you ready for the matchup:

Last time out
La Salle beat Bucknell, 83-73, on Saturday.

Villanova won, 88-47, over Saint Joseph’s.

Scouting report
Villanova, which is undefeated, has become the No. 1 team in the country after beating St. Joe’s handily on Saturday. Josh Hart, who had a triple-double in the game, has been a major reason for the Wildcats' success so far this season. The senior is averaging 17.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. 

La Salle has won three games in a row after losing at the buzzer to Texas Southern on its homecoming game. Against Bucknell, Jordan Price had 20 points, while B.J. Johnson had 22. Johnson, a transfer from Syracuse, leads the team in scoring with 18.7 points per game.

What it means
Villanova is the best in the country right now, and it moved up to No. 1 after Kentucky lost to UCLA. Another win will give the Wildcats good momentum heading into their Saturday matchup with No. 23 Notre Dame. A victory would also extend Villanova's all-time record Big 5 winning streak to 16 games.

La Salle head coach John Gianinni could potentially be on the hot seat if the Explorers suffer another poor season. A win against the defending national champions would alleviate any chatter about his status.

Series history
This is the first and only time the Big 5 rivals will meet this season. Jay Wright is 13-2 all-time against the Explorers, and his group blew them out last season, 76-47.

What’s next?
La Salle will head to Miami for the Hoophall Miami Invitational to take on Georgetown this Saturday at the American Airlines Arena.

Villanova travels to Newark, New Jersey, to meet No. 23 Notre Dame at the Prudential Center.

Doug Pederson doesn't think 2016 struggles will ruin Carson Wentz in long term

Doug Pederson doesn't think 2016 struggles will ruin Carson Wentz in long term

In his first month in the NFL, Carson Wentz's trophy case was filling up quickly. 

He won two NFL Rookie of the Week awards to go along with being named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week in Week 3 and the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Month for September. 

It's hard to believe all of that happened this year. 

Since September, the Eagles have gone 2-7 and Wentz has looked like a rookie. Sure, the Eagles have some major deficiencies on offense that haven't made his life any easier, but it's no longer possible to simply overlook the regression of the No. 2 overall pick. 

Could this tough stretch negatively affect Wentz long term?  

"I don't think it's going to affect Carson going forward," head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday. "I just don't think it's going to affect him at all, because he's really a pro's pro and he's learning how to handle adversity for the first time, probably, in his career. It's something that we get to the OTAs and we get a full offseason in and we just continue to work on it."

It's fair to say the 2016 season was probably never really about this year and making the playoffs. It's clear the more important thing is to develop Wentz into the franchise quarterback they drafted him to be. But the one thing the team probably didn't want to see was regression. It seems like that's what has happened. 

In the first four games of the season, Wentz had a passer rating over 100 three times and hasn't done it since then. Take a look at the difference in the first quarter of his season compared to the next two. 

First four games: Completion percentage of 67 percent, 7 touchdowns, 1 interception, passer rating of 103.5. 

Next eight: Completion percentage of 61 percent, 5 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, passer rating of 70.1. 

The Eagles will enter their final quarter of the season when they host Washington on Sunday. The best way to avoid any long-term issues stemming from a tough rookie season is to end on a stronger note. 

"Well, you avoid it by trying to win a football game, and you try to win as many as you can now with these last four that we've got," Pederson said. "If you're looking towards next season, you always want to go out with a bang and try to win as many as you can down the stretch."

Way back in training camp, the plan was for 2016 to be a redshirt year for Wentz. He was supposed to sit behind Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel, but Bradford was traded and the Eagles elected to start their prized quarterback from the onset. 

Wentz went from a redshirt season to being on pace to throw 603 passes, which would shatter the Eagles' record for a single season. 

"These are some of the decisions that I made back when the trade was made that if there was going to be some growing pains, these were going to be some of the pains we were going to have to go through," Pederson said. "And just him understanding and him learning and us growing together as an offense, he and I growing as coach and quarterback together, it's all part of the process."

Wentz and Pederson seemingly had a disagreement after Sunday's game, when Pederson attributed Wentz's struggles to mechanical problems, while Wentz denied that was the case. Pederson held firm to his belief that those mechanical issues can be corrected and it's probable Wentz spoke out of frustration on Sunday night. 

If Wentz is frustrated, it would be understandable. It hasn't been an easy couple of months. 

"I see him handling it well," Pederson said. "These are discussions that we will have, myself, [Eagles offensive coordinator] Frank [Reich], Carson [Wentz], as we talk to him, because we've played obviously at this level, and my experience, even in this city playing and knowing what that's all about, we can really help him. It’s our job to help him and make sure that he stays on track and stays focused and he doesn't get derailed by anything that's coming from the outside."