On Tuesday night the Flyers blitzed the lowly Anaheim Ducks 5-2 as Kevin Hayes collected his first career hat trick.  Sam Ersson was steady in goal, continuing an undefeated start to his NHL career.  Wade Allison, Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, and Rasmus Ristolainen joined Hayes as multiple-point scorers.  The Orange and Black are back to .500 and 8-2 since their return from a brief Christmas break.  While the team should be heartened by its recovery from an abysmal fall, they need to emphasize the future over what are still slim chances to make this year’s postseason.

The Flyers are dispatching basement dwellers (San Jose, Anaheim) and playoff hopefuls (Buffalo, Washington) alike, but that has only been enough to accrue 45 points, good for second worst in the Metropolitan Division.  Though the team has lost just twice over their last 10, both were 6-goal shellackings courtesy of the Maple Leafs and Bruins, respectively.  Two losses do not define a team’s viability, but the Flyers’ continued inability to compete with the elite of the Eastern Conference should remind them they are in no position to contend this season.  Instead, they should focus on what has worked during their post-Christmas purple patch.

Ersson has been lights out, a revelation that dooms any chance that Felix Sandstrom had of locking up a backup role with the Flyers.  Elsewhere on the ice, the Flyers have got to the net with the most energy they have shown since their 5-2 start to the year.  A 10-game heater is more than a blip, and perhaps at last John Tortorella’s team has adopted the hockey identity of their coach.  Laughton, Konecny, and Joel Farabee have turned it up since the break; that trio will not be considered expendable at the trade deadline.

If the Flyers’ recent success is down to players here for the long haul and a coach that has gotten production out of young pros who had previously looked out of their depth at the NHL level (Frost, Tippett, York), then there is little sense in clinging to expensive veterans.  James van Riemsdyk is a power play option on an expiring deal.  In other words, “JVR” is as good as gone.  What about players the Flyers, via hapless GM Chuck Fletcher, have committed to long-term?  Hayes, the hat trick hero, has been embroiled in a public feud with Tortorella for most of the season over whether his point production is worth his lax playing style.  Meanwhile, Ivan Provorov has been mentioned in trade rumors as teams look to shore up their back end.  York already seems a more likely option to become the top-pair player the Flyers have missed since Kimo Timonen left back in 2014.

The Flyers’ recent success has been down to their team identity and a  few hot hands, one of whom is admittedly Hayes.  That said, purging at least van Riemsdyk, Provorov, and Hayes’s contracts will help the team turnover a desperately needed new leaf as Tortorella continues to try and optimize a younger roster.  Historically, Fletcher has taken any available excuse to try to contend with a subpar core of players.  Consequently, the Flyers’ books are rife with ill-advised $6 million contracts even before the perpetually-injured trio of Sean Couturier, Ryan Ellis, and Cam Atkinson come into play.  Only Couturier figures to last through any rebuild.  If the embattled GM seeks to prove he has a forward-thinking bone in his body, he will shed what veterans he can at the deadline rather than clinging to nonexistent Stanley Cup chances.

Photo: NHL via Getty Images

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