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.

NBA Playoffs: Warriors sweep their way to 3rd straight NBA Finals

NBA Playoffs: Warriors sweep their way to 3rd straight NBA Finals

BOX SCORE

SAN ANTONIO -- Stephen Curry scored 36 points as the Golden State Warriors closed out the Western Conference Final against the injury-ravaged San Antonio Spurs with a 129-115 victory Monday night, becoming the first team in league history to start the playoffs 12-0.

Golden State led by as many as 22 points in cruising to its third straight NBA Finals. The Warriors await a possible third straight championship matchup with Cleveland, which leads Boston 2-1 in the East finals.

"It's great to be one of the last two teams standing, we'll see how it goes," said Kevin Durant, who had 29 points and 12 rebounds.

San Antonio's only lead came on the opening possession when Manu Ginobili tossed in a left-handed scoop shot. The Spurs started Ginobili in what could be his final game with the team. The 39-year-old had maintained he will not ponder whether to retire or return until after the season.

Unsure if the beloved veteran will return, the crowd serenaded Ginobili with "Manu, Manu" chants as the game came to a close.

"An amazing competitor, even more fun playing against him," Durant said of Ginobili. "He was phenomenal this series."

Kyle Anderson scored 20 points to lead the Spurs, who were without Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and David Lee. San Antonio didn't go down without a fight despite the injuries.

Anderson dove on the court for a loose ball that the Spurs had tipped away defensively, pushing the ball upcourt to Patty Mills who fed Ginobili for a 3-pointer that pulled San Antonio to 108-94 with 7 minutes remaining.

The effort made Spurs coach Gregg Popovich smile and clap at times, but the Warriors' depth and talent proved too much for short-handed San Antonio.

Golden State shot 56 percent and were 14 for 39 on 3-pointers.

Draymond Green had 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Warriors.

Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge closed out a disappointing series with his second eight-point effort against the Warriors.

Ginobili finished with 15 points in 32 minutes.

Phillies held to 3 hits again, pounded by Rockies in return home

Phillies held to 3 hits again, pounded by Rockies in return home

BOX SCORE

The loudest noise made by the Phillies' offense on Monday night was the thud — clearly audible above the small crowd — that Odubel Herrera created when he smashed his batting helmet on the dirt infield after grounding out to third base to end the seventh inning.

Herrera's frustration spoke for an entire team. The Phillies were hammered, 8-1, by the Colorado Rockies (see Instant Replay). They were out-hit, 13-3. The loss was the Phils' 18th in the last 22 games and they have been outscored 126-89 over that span.

The loss left the Phils at 15-27 for the season, matching their worst 42-game start since 2000 when they finished 65-97 in front of tiny crowds at Veterans Stadium in Terry Francona's last season as skipper.

Over the last two games, both losses, the Phils have just six hits.

"Three hits today, three hits yesterday," manager Pete Mackanin said. "You're not going to win a lot of games getting three hits."

Aaron Altherr had two of the Phillies' hits, both doubles against Colorado rookie Jeff Hoffman, who was very impressive with seven walk-free innings and seven strikeouts.

Herrera went hitless in three at-bats and is hitting just .200 in the month of May and .232 overall — not what the front office expected when it signed him to a five-year, $30.5 million contract extension in the offseason.

"It's very frustrating because I feel like I am being selective and waiting for my pitch, but when I make contact things don't happen," Herrera said. "I feel like I'm swinging the bat well, but I'm just missing."

Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff gave up nine hits, seven of which were singles, and four runs over six innings. Four of the hits that Eickhoff allowed came in the third inning when the Rockies scored three times. Two of the runs scored on a flare double and the other on a groundball through a drawn-in infield.

"I executed a lot of good pitches," Eickhoff said. "I got a lot of the contact I wanted. The ball just didn't land in the gloves."

Eickhoff did not walk a batter. He struck out four.

Despite being 0-5 with a 4.70 ERA in nine starts, the right-hander believes he has made strides his last two outings. He gave up three runs (two earned) over six innings in his previous outing at Texas. Prior to that start, he worked on fixing a mechanical flaw in his delivery.

"These past two have been night-and-day different," he said. "I felt great today and in Texas and I'm going to keep that positivity going."

Finding other things to be positive about with this team is becoming difficult.

This Phillies team was not expected to contend; it is still in a rebuild. But things weren't supposed to be this bad, either.

"I'll tell you what, I'm getting frustrated, too," general manager Matt Klentak said before the game. "This team is better … there is more talent on this team than we've shown in terms of our record.

"We'll pull out of it. We will. That's what talented players will do. I'm not going to tell the fans they shouldn't be frustrated. We've gone through a tough stretch.

"But I'm not ready to call it regression. I think there's been a lack of consistency on our team in general, with some players more than others. There's been a lack of consistency, but especially for young players, two months is a relatively small sample size to categorize it as regression."

At 29-17, the Rockies have the best record in the National League. They have 16 road wins, which is one more than the Phillies have overall. The Rockies are in town for three more days. This ugly start could get even uglier.