Marek Schwarz, who was once considered to be the top goaltending prospect for the Blues, has left the Alaska Aces of the ECHL to play in his native Czech Republic, according to Aces' coach Keith McCambridge.
It's a sad story for a guy that the Blues spent a first round draft pick in 2004 on, and coming out of Sparta Praha of the Czech Republic was highly-touted as the next great Czech goalie to go to the NHL. Unfortunately, the North American style of game never seemed to fit Schwarz's game. His game slowly declined after two very good seasons with the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL, where he had a record of 33-27 and a goals against average of 2.77. He was recalled by the Blues late in 2008, but only played in two games, the second being a horrendous game in Chicago where he allowed six goals on 17 shots. Afterwards, he seemed to lose confidence in his game and fell out of favor quickly with the Blues and the Rivermen. This season, he was back and forth between the Rivermen and the Aces, along with a short two game stint with the Blues, and had a 6-6 combined record with a 3.56 GAA posted in Peoria, and a 3.15 GAA while in Alaska. His save percentage dipped to 86.8% while with Peoria, which was a telling sign that he was near the end of his time with the club. Chris Holt ended up being called up to Peoria to back up starter Ben Bishop, and Schwarz was sent down to Alaska to work on his game once again. However, with Jean-Philippe Lamoreux becoming a breakout star in goal for the Aces, Schwarz was relegated to the backup role, and finally had enough.
Schawrz is in the last year of his NHL entry contract, so it remains to be seen if the Blues will renew the deal after the season or let him go. Schwarz's game the past two seasons could be described as "being like swiss cheese". He had a lot of holes in his game that players not only at the NHL level, but at the AHL and ECHL level would easily be able to exploit and use to their advantage. Hopefully, Schwarz can find his game playing in the Czech Republic and fine-tool it enough to where somewhere down the road, he will want to come back to North America and prove to everybody why he was taken in the first round in 2004. Only time will tell if using the 17th pick in the 2004 draft on a goalie was the wrong move, or one that will pan out sometime down the road when Schwarz decides he is up to the challenge of playing at a high-caliber level in North America.
His career is in his hands now. Hopefully, his future remains with the St. Louis Blues' organization.