January 30, 1986 -- The Buffalo Sabres had been treading water for most of the 1985-86 season. General manager Scotty Bowman had fired coach Jim Schoenfeld after Schoenfeld had led the Sabres to a .500 record in the team's first 43 games, but it didn't change the team's fortunes right away.
Missing the postseason was unacceptable, since the Sabres hadn't done that since 1974. Buffalo figured it needed a little help on its roster, so Bowman made a good-sized swap. The Sabres sent defensemen Larry Playfair and Ken Baumgartner and forward Sean McKenna to Los Angeles for defenseman Brian Engblom and center Doug Smith.
The focal point of the deal from the Buffalo standpoint probably was Smith. The Sabres had a reputation for being a slow team, and Smith could skate. In fact, he demonstrated his speed in his very first game as a Sabre, as he scored a goal. Engblom was a helpful defenseman with plenty of experience.
Meanwhile, the Kings thought they could get McKenna to improve on a pair of two 20-goal seasons. Instead, he went backwards. Playfair stayed a couple of years and went back to the Sabres in another deal. Baumgartner was a prospect who ended up playing more than 10 years of NHL hockey.
The move didn't help the Sabres much. They still missed the playoffs.
--- Budd Bailey