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.