The fact that the Sabres are freewheeling is entirely Imlach's doing. A brusque, irreverent sort who covers his bald pate with one of his two dozen beaver hats, Imlach once selected an imaginary Japanese player named Taro Tsujimoto in the 11th round of the NHL draft, and went so far as to assign his phantom pick a locker. As for his first-round choices, these were used in the early years for the flashy likes of Perreault and Martin. Imlach pretty much shunned purely defensive prospects, reasoning, "We have to sell the team to new fans, and a dull defensive game isn't going to do it."
Only when the Sabres were safely on their high-scoring way did Imlach turn his attention to defense. The present crew arrived over a three-year period: Hajt and Schoenfeld through the draft, Korab and Guevremont in trades. Schoenfeld has been the team's leader almost from the start of his tenure, hollering out advice to the other Sabres, even from the penalty box, which he regularly inhabits. He also is a folk-rock singer of local reputation but distinguishes between the two albums he has cut by forth-rightly cautioning, "Get the newest one. The first is awful."
Imlach insisted the other day that, problems of the moment notwithstanding, Buffalo's defensemen were "close to the best, if not the best, in the league." Then last weekend the Sabres split with the New York Islanders on successive nights. On Saturday Buffalo extended its mastery over the New York team to 17 straight in a 4-2 game played at Long Island's Nassau Coliseum. The victory came despite the fact that the home team had peppered Sabre Goalie Desjardins with a club-record 53 shots. Then, back home the following night, Desjardins' once-faithful defensemen were again no more in evidence than Taro Tsujimoto as Buffalo was shut out for the second time in two weeks, 3-0.
Nevertheless, Jerry Korab predicted that both the Sabres' and the Buffalo Four's slumps were temporary aberrations, soon to be ended. "We can't get down on ourselves," King Kong said. "If we keep on trying, we'll be playing well again." If this means directing traffic again in the dressing room, Korab and the other defensemen are no longer likely to mind.