Daily News Sports Editor
When the Kamloops Blazers met the Oil Kings in Edmonton on Oct. 22, defenceman Linden Saip was a healthy scratch.
It turns out that was the beginning of the end of the 19-year-old defenceman’s days with the Blazers.
Saip walked into general manager Craig Bonner’s office on Monday morning and quit the WHL team.
“I just feel it’s time to move on,” Saip said. “I just kind of feel my role here is diminishing. I talked it over with family and it seems it’s the right thing to do right now.”
Bonner said: “He came in (Monday) morning and said he wasn’t having fun anymore and wanted to be released from the team or quit the team or whatever word you want to use. He said he wasn’t having fun anymore and that’s about all.”
Asked how long he had been thinking about it, Saip replied: “The last road trip . . . two or three weeks.”
Saip, who played 142 regular-season games with the Blazers, admitted that being a healthy scratch bothered him. But, he added, “Things change.”
“There was a lot of fun here,” he said. “I respect everybody here. I respect the coaches and the whole organization but I feel for me it’s the best thing to do and have a fresh start somewhere else.”
Bonner admitted that he has noticed a change in Saip over the last “three weeks.”
“I’ve seen a little bit . . . just in his play and his demeanour around the rink,” Bonner explained.
After Saip sat out the game in Edmonton, he was back in the lineup the next night against the Hitmen in Calgary.
“In the game in Calgary,” Bonner said, “I didn’t think he bounced back like a guy who really . . . whether you’re mad about sitting out or want to get back in the good books, he didn’t respond as well as I thought he might.”
After being scratched in Edmonton, Saip played in all three Kamloops games. He had an assist and was plus-1 in a 3-2 victory over the Hitmen. He added another assist in a 6-4 loss to the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings on Wednesday. On Saturday, he was pointless and minus-1 as the Blazers scored a 3-2 overtime victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds.
This season, he had seven points, including three goals, and 28 penalty minutes in 13 games. He was minus-5. He missed two games with a WHL suspension for a hit on Everett Silvertips forward Clayton Cumiskey in a 4-2 loss on Oct. 1.
Saip was named after former Vancouver Canucks captain Trevor Linden. Saip also is a nephew of Dale Saip, who is the Vancouver Giants’ vice-president of business development.
Bonner got Linden Saip from the Giants on May 2, 2008, for a seventh-round pick in the 2009 bantam draft. This was Bonner’s first trade as the Blazers’ GM.
Saip had been an eighth round pick by Vancouver in the 2006 bantam draft. He had 53 points, 18 of them goals, during his stay with the Blazers.
“It’s hard to leave the guys,” Saip said. “It’s such a great group of guys. But . . . I have to do what’s best for me in the situation and just talking it over we’ve come to the conclusion that this is what’s best.”
He will spend the next few days at home as he waits to see what might happen.
“I’ve talked to Craig,” Saip said. “Me and him know what’s best for me right now. I’m sure he’ll make a good decision as to what happens.”
Only time will tell whether Saip will find another WHL home.
“You never like it when a guy comes in and wants to leave the team,” Bonner stated, “but that’s his decision and he’ll have to live with it.”
Saip’s departure leaves the Blazers with 23 players on their roster, including two goaltenders and seven defencemen. The latter figure includes Josh Caron (broken collarbone), who perhaps is three weeks away from a return.
“We’re not in a panic,” Bonner said. “We’ll have to battle through until we get Josh back and then we’ll re-evaluate. But we’re not in a panic to bring in a defenceman now.
“From my side of things, I’m happy that Brady Gaudet is going to get in more now. He needs to. He needs to get playing.”
Gaudet, 16, was the Blazers’ first-round pick in the 2009 bantam draft. He has been a healthy scratch for four of the last five games and has dressed for only six of the club’s first 16 games.
JUST NOTES: The Blazers are at home to the Kelowna Rockets on Wednesday. Game time is 7 p.m. . . . The Blazers then hit the road, meeting the Hitmen in Calgary on Friday and the Hurricanes in Lethbridge on Saturday. . . . Kamloops then comes home to face the Rockets, again, on Nov. 13. . . . Caron was injured on Sept. 25. He has missed 14 games.
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