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.

Not worthy of No. 1: LSU reporter details concerns with Ben Simmons

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Not worthy of No. 1: LSU reporter details concerns with Ben Simmons

So you think Ben Simmons should be picked first or second in the next month's NBA draft.

We found someone who thinks Simmons doesn't deserve to go in either spot. Someone who has seen Simmons play plenty.

It's USA Today LSU beat writer Glenn Guilbeau, who didn't mince words as a guest Thursday on TCN's Breakfast on Broad. Guilbeau didn't question Simmons' desire and motivation — "I don't think that was an issue," he said — but did express concerns with other areas. 

Several other areas.

"To me, he's more of a specialist player and a complementary player than someone who can really take over a team," Guilbeau said. "He's not a strong, inside player like a brute. A physical player. And he also does not shoot from the outside, which is amazing, but he's a great passer and a great scorer."

Complementary player? Can't take over a team? Say what? 

"I don't think he should be the first pick," Guilbeau said. "I can see him being a high first-round pick. It depends on the team he's going to. Do they have enough of the other parts of the team where he can be a facilitator and a complementary player?

"He would have to go to a team where he can flourish as a complementary player, a team that has a very good center."

The Sixers are loaded in the front court with Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel and potentially Joel Embiid. But a first overall pick is not supposed to be a complementary player.

"I think you could develop him to be as good as he could be, but not be that type of star," Guilbeau said. "It's kind of strange to me. Before he ever played he was supposed to be the greatest player, and I just never saw it. I covered great players here like Shaquille O'Neal and Chris Jackson, and he just didn't change a team like those guys did."

You'd think a team with the best player in the nation would have fared better than LSU, which finished last season a disappointing 19-14. The Tigers were crushed by Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament, 71-38, failed to make the NCAA Tournament and declined an NIT bid. In the loss to the Aggies, Simmons had 10 points, 12 rebounds and four fouls in 31 minutes.

The 6-foot-10, 225-pound Simmons averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists for LSU and hit 56.0 percent from the field. Gaudy numbers and all team highs. But he was just 1 for 3 from three, and that's a major concern given that he's being projected at almost every position but center.

"I just was surprised -- he didn't even try to shoot from the outside," Guilbeau said. "That would be the normal attribute that a player like him would have because he's a guard. He's basically a guard who can't shoot. Most of them can shoot. That's what I thought was really missing, and it hurt the team at times.

"In my mind, either you can dominate inside like a Shaquille O'Neal, or you can do all the other things, but all the other things has to include shooting from the outside, and he doesn't do that. I'd rather have Buddy [Hield]."

If there's one thing Hield can do — and let's just assume Guilbeau misspoke when he said "Guiled" — it's shoot. And the Sixers certainly need a shooter. But obviously it would be a major shock if they took Hield. 

It will be important for Simmons to develop an outside shot, and it might be more important for him to play under a quality head coach. Guilbeau wasn't praiseworthy of LSU's Johnny Jones, whose Tigers improved in each of his first three seasons as head coach before Simmons' arrival.

LSU won 19 games in 2013, 20 in 2014 and 22 in 2015 — and reached the NCAA Tournament.

"It's going to depend on the coach he gets too," Guilbeau said. "I would say he's never really had a great X and O coach yet in his career. He was on a team that had quite a few players last year, and they didn't do too well. So maybe it will be different depending on what team he goes to. He didn't play under Coach K or anything like that."

For more discussion on the topic, watch Thursday's edition of Lunch Break.

Remembering the Lindros hit from Stevens 16 years later

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Remembering the Lindros hit from Stevens 16 years later

All it took to end the Flyers career of Eric Lindros was one devastating shoulder to the chin from Scott Stevens.

This day, in 2000, just 7 minutes and 50 seconds into Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, Stevens, the most intimidating defenseman in New Jersey Devils history, caught Lindros in transition coming across center ice in the Flyer offensive zone … with his head down.

In real time, measured against today’s standards, Stevens’ hit on Lindros is nothing compared to what seems to occur nightly in the NHL at breakneck speed.

The difference is, back then, the Stevens’ hit was deemed legal.

Today, it would draw a five-minute major, game misconduct and possible suspension because the principal point of contact from Stevens’ shoulder was the chin and forehead of Lindros.

Stevens was 6-foot-2, 215 pounds. Lindros was two inches taller — but smaller when he tucked his head down, as he often did when he skated hard and fast. He weighed 25 pounds more. Didn’t matter. Stevens dropped Lindros to the ice and a hush came over the arena now called Wells Fargo Center.

The significance of the hit is obvious. It marked the end of Lindros’ career as a Flyer. Recall, he had missed more than two months because of headaches, and came into the series in Game 6.

The Flyers lost Game 7, 2-1. They lost a series they once led 3-1. And they lost perhaps the greatest power forward of his generation. No player dominated the ice like Lindros. He was unique in that NHL coaches actually had to design game plans around defending him.

Stevens’ hit resulted in Lindros’ sixth concussion as a Flyer, but more significantly, it was his fourth in five months. He would sit out the entire following season with post-concussion syndrome while demanding a trade that would eventually come with the New York Rangers.

Lindros' impact in eight years as a Flyer can’t be understated. He is among the club’s all-time top 10 in goals (290) assists (369) and points (659) and is the third-highest scoring centerman in Flyers history.

Tragically, he was also the NHL’s poster child for post-concussion syndrome. At the time, the Flyers, the league and many neurologists weren’t sure of the ramifications of this medical term, but in coming years, it would become synonymous with head injuries in every sport.

Medically speaking, this remains the biggest impact Lindros had on hockey — he brought much-needed focus to concussions.

Sadly, during his 13-year career, Lindros missed the equivalent of two more seasons because of injuries, most of which were concussion-related.

Chad Ford: 'High likelihood' Sixers trade Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel

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Chad Ford: 'High likelihood' Sixers trade Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel

Technically, the Sixers don't have to trade any of their myriad of big men just yet. Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid are all under contract. The organization can take its time evaluating which pieces should lay the foundation for the post-process era.

That being said, we already know Noel and Okafor don't work well together at all, at least they did not complement one another their first year together. And with Embiid perhaps finally ready to hit the floor in 2016, the Sixers are about to have an even bigger cluster on their hands in trying to rotate three centers.

With that in mind, NBA insider Chad Ford doesn't think the Sixers will wait. In fact, in an interview for 97.3 ESPN, the veteran reporter went on to describe the possibility of either Okafor or Noel being traded before the 2016-17 season as likely.

I think that there's a very high likelihood, that whether it's to move up in the draft or use them to grab a free agent in a sign and trade or just to a trade, that you will not see the Nerlens Noel-Jahlil Okafor pairing at the start of next season. I think that they'll gauge the interest of both players. I think that there might be a slight preference for Noel, to keep him around with the Sixers, and I think you might be right, there might be a slight, better value for Okafor out on the market, but I think everyone agrees that that combination of those two players doesn't necessarily work.

The Sixers needs to pick up assets, especially if they're gonna go ahead and do a Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram with the first pick in the draft. Then they're gonna need those assets to start to fill out their backcourt, because the 24th pick and [the 26th pick], you're not finding starters. I'm not even sure that you're necessarily finding rotation players at that back end of the draft that are gonna make big impact, so they're gonna have to do that via free agency or via trade, and I think either Okafor or Noel — I don't think they'll trade both — but one of those two is probably their best trade chip.

The idea the Sixers would make a move to break up Okafor and Noel isn't exactly fresh. There was doubt they could coexist from the beginning, and already by the trade deadline, rumors the club was at least fielding calls.

What might be a little surprising, however, is Ford's sense the Sixers might prefer Noel of the two. We can come up with a whole host of reasons why that could be — in fact, we did, from Okafor's attitude and off-court behavior, to his skill set being too similar to that of Joel Embiid, to name a few. But at the end of the day, most feel Okafor has the much higher upside.

As for whether Ford would do the deal for the Boston Celtics' third-overall pick in this year's draft, as has been hinted at by numerous reporters, he says, "Absolutely."

If I was Philadelphia, it would be done tomorrow. I don't know if Boston would do it, but for Philadelphia, 100 percent. That would allow them to actually I think bring in another guard, an elite guard, whether that's Kris Dunn or Jamal Murray, and suddenly now you've got a very, very bright future. I think that's an easy call for the Sixers if Boston would do it.

But the biggest takeaway here is Ford anticipates one or the other is gone this offseason. Again, he's far from alone in thinking that, but it's one thing to suggest a trade makes sense, and quite another to say there's "a very high likelihood" it goes down.

Ford also takes on a number of other topics in the interview, from his preference for Simmons over Ingram to the Sixers' plans for this offseason and beyond.