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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Lost Rookies: Marco Baron

  Marco Baron played in 86 career NHL teams over the span of six seasons and three franchises.  He would never have a rookie card.  Baron, drafted by the Boston Bruins 99th overall in the 1979 NHL draft, played his first career game on January 10th, 1980.  With incumbent starters Gerry Cheevers out with a knee injury and Gilles Gilbert out with the flu, and the St. Louis Blues coming to town, the Bruins had to choose between two rookie netminders without a minute of NHL experience between them.  The Bruins started Jim Stewart.  After twenty minutes of play, nine shots against and 5 goals against, Jim Stewart took a seat on the bench and Marco Baron went between the pipes.  Baron had better success that Stewart, in that game and also in his career.  Baron would stop 11 of 13 shots, the Bruins would lose 7-4.  Jim Stewart would never play another NHL game.
  Baron wouldn't play another game for the Bruins until the following season. In the offseason, Gary Cheevers retired and Gilles Gilbert was traded for Rogie Vachon, but Baron had some stiff competition for the back-up job; Jim Craig.  The same Jim Craig who had backstopped the USA Olympic team to the Miracle on Ice victory over the USSR and a Gold medal.  The Bruins had traded a 2nd round pick to the Atlanta Flames for the Olympic hero.  The Bruins plan was to send Craig down to the minors to work on his technique, but Craig refused and it was Baron who was sent to the minors.  Baron would finally return to the NHL in Feburary of 1981.  With Craig struggling, and still refusing to go to the minors, the Bruins carried three goalies for the rest of the season.  Baron would get his first start, a 4-3 loss to the Quebec Nordiques on February 8th and would get his first victory on February 20th, a 5-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers.  Baron played in 10 games that season, but that wasn't enough to get a OPC rookie card.  Below is how Marco Baron's RC could have looked. 

1981-82 OPC Lost Rookie Marco Baron

  Thanks to Baron's promising play in the previous season, and Jim Craig suffering an off-season injury, Baron started the season with the Bruins.  Within a month, Baron was playing a key role with the team.  On November 1st, 1981, Baron came within one second of his first career shutout.  Leading 4-0, Rick Meagher, of the Hartford Whalers, scored to break-up the shutout bid at 19:59 of the third period.  Baron would lose a a few more shutout bids in the third period before finally sealing the deal on Febraury 20th, 1982, on the road against the Philadelphia Flyers.  It would be his only career shutout.  While it had appeared that Baron had solidified the starting job for himself, as the 1981-82 season came to a close, Bruins coach Gary Cheevers looked to shake up his team.  He benched Marco Baron and Rogie Vachon, in favour of rookie Mike Moffat, who I covered in an earlier post.  Moffat would start and win the final two games of the season and would start every game for the Bruins in the play-offs, with Vachon as the back-up.
   There would change in the Bruins nets again for the 1982-83 season.  With Rogie Vachon announcing his retirement, Baron and Moffat would battle for the back-up job, since neither of them could touch the starting job.  Still not confident in thier goalies, the Bruins made an off-season trade for Pete Peeters.  Peeters would dominate and have one of the the best seasons by a goalie in the 1980s.  He would set a NHL record by going 31 games without a loss.  While Peeters would finish the season with 40 wins, 2.36 GAA and 2nd place in the Hart Trophy voting, Baron would only play 9 games
  The 1983-84 season would see Baron on the move.  Late in the previous season, the Bruins had plucked Doug Keans off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings.  Keans was able to jump over both Baron and Moffat in the depth chart.  Baron would play the majority of the season with the Moncton Alpines in the AHL before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings in January of 1984.  Baron would play in the majority of the remaining games for the Kings.  He did not shine in LA, in fact none of the Kings goalies shined that season.  The Kings used five different goalies that season, with Baron sharing the lead for best GAA at 4.31.  There is a lack of Marco Baron pictures in a Los Angeles Kings uniform.  The only one I could find is low on the megapixels and then I couldn't find a coloured headshot of Baron in any uniform.  Below is the best I could come up with.

84-85 OPC Marco Baron

  None of the five goalies who played for the Kings in the 83-84 season would wear a Kings uniform again.  The Kings brought in two new goalies, Bob Janecyk and Darren Eliott, and Baron was without a NHL team.  In January of 1985, an unemployed Marco Baron got a call from the Oilers, the Nova Scotia Oilers that is.  Within the month, he got another call, this time it was the Edmonton Oilers.  Grant Fuhr had injured his shoulder and Baron got the call to be Andy Moog's back-up.  On March 2nd, 1985, in a game against the LA Kings, Marco Baron would come in for an injured Andy Moog.  Down 3-1, the Oilers would mount a comeback but a goal by Phil Sykes would give Los Angeles a 5-4 win and it'd be Baron's last NHL game. 
  Baron would take his game overseas and play in Switzerland, playing once season with Ambri Piotta before retiring.  He would remain in Switzerland and stayed involved with hockey. He coached for several seasons and helped raise the bar for goaltending in Switzerland.
  Baron seemed to be overlooked for the next hot thing each of his first few season.  First it was Olympic hero Jim Craig, and then the 1982 World Junior Hockey Championship hero Mike Moffat.  What would have Baron's career turned out if the Bruins had stuck with him?  Could he have gotten that elusive rookie card?

Did you know?
Rick Meagher's goal against Baron to spoil the shutout at 19:59 of the third period was his sixth of the season.  1981-82 was a career year for Meagher.  he would set career highs with 23 goals and 42 points
Marco Baron's first NHL shutout was over shadowed by the Edmonton Oiler's 7-3 win against the Detroit Red Wings.  Wayne Gretzky had a goal and four assists.  The goal was his 76th of the season, temporarily tying him with Phil Esposito for the single single record.

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