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Bills C Wood calls Toronto home games 'a joke'

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Bills C Wood calls Toronto home games 'a joke'

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Center Eric Wood wasn't laughing when referring to the Buffalo Bills playing so-called home games in Toronto as being ``a joke.''

That was the opinion Wood expressed during his weekly show on Buffalo's WGRF-Radio on Monday, a day after a 50-17 loss to Seattle at Toronto. And he stuck by his comments Wednesday, saying he believes the Bills are giving away their home-field edge by playing under a dome and in front of ambivalent crowds north of the border.

``Yeah, I did call it a joke,'' Wood said. ``It stunk that we were up there. And I was heated when I said it was a joke. And I'm not going to sit here and retract all my statements because that's what I meant and what I felt.''

Wood expressed his complaints despite not making the trip to Toronto. He stayed home because he's recovering from a sprained right knee. And yet, he saw enough on TV and also heard from teammates to appreciate how familiar the atmosphere was to the two games he's played in Toronto.

Wood was unhappy the Seahawks got the chance to play inside the Rogers Centre, as opposed to outdoors at Ralph Wilson Stadium, where the elements usually play a factor in December.

Wood cited the mixed support the Bills get in Toronto, noting there are sometimes as many fans cheering for the visiting team as for Buffalo. And he added, there are times when fans don't know when to cheer.

``Those non-Bills fans that go to the game are just cheering for plays as opposed to cheering for a team,'' he said. ``And that kills you.''

Defensive tackle Kyle Williams was in Toronto, and expressed similar sentiments.

``It's very similar to a road game, but also I understand the business side of things,'' Williams said. ``I don't think you'd find a guy in here that wouldn't agree that they would much rather be in Ralph Wilson Stadium.''

Wood understands how playing in Canada's financial capital and largest city benefits a small-market team such as the Bills by generating additional revenue and luring fans to attend the team's games at Orchard Park.

He emphasized he wasn't criticizing Toronto as a community, because he enjoys makes numerous trips there.

``I love the city of Toronto for eating and for pleasure,'' Wood said. ``But the game just has a different feel. And it's not a whole lot of fun to play in at this point.''

The Bills are 1-4 in regular season games at Toronto since the series began in 2008.

The five-year deal, in which Rogers Communications agreed to pay the Bills $78 million to play in Toronto, has now expired. The two sides have been in negotiations and are close to extending the series for what's expected to be another five years.

``I don't blame Russ for this,'' Wood said, referring to Bills CEO Russ Brandon. ``I respect the decisions that he makes to keep us in this market and provide a good business plan. But from a playing standpoint, unless it improves, it's not a whole lot of fun to play there.''

The latest complaints echoed those made by Bills veteran safety George Wilson last year.

Saying it's not a home game, Wilson described fan support in Toronto as being ``a night-and-day difference'' to Buffalo.

Last year, in a 23-0 win over Washington, the crowd was doing the wave, which led to the Bills offense jumping the snap on third down. On Sunday, there was little crowd noise drowning out Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson calling plays at the line on several third-down situations.

Customarily, home crowds remain quiet when their team's offense is on the field, and they grow louder to disrupt the opposing team's offense.

``That just doesn't happen at Ralph Wilson Stadium,'' Wood said. ``There have been times when there's been 40,000 people in there, and they're still not doing a regular cadence on third down in the first quarter.''

The announced crowd of 40,770 was well below the downtown stadium's capacity of 54,000. Many who stuck around for the second half started rooting for the Seahawks. By the fourth quarter, the fans who were left began chanting, ``Let's Go Blue Jays!''

Organizers went so far in a bid to drum up support by having Korean pop star PSY perform his hit ``Gangnam Style'' at halftime.

Wood was so worked up that he was preparing to share his frustrations on his Twitter account, before remembering the NFL rule barring players from using social media while their team is playing.

``I wrote and deleted about three tweets during the game,'' Wood said. ``That was probably best. Yeah, it kind of ticked me off.''

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NBA offseason grades: Thunder stood out in Northwest Division

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NBA offseason grades: Thunder stood out in Northwest Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Northwest Division...

Portland Trail Blazers, C+

2017-18 finish: 49-33, 1st round of playoffs
In: G Seth Curry, G Nik Stauskas, G Anfernee Simons, G Gary Trent, Jr.
Out: F Ed Davis, G Pat Connaughton, G Shabazz Napier

The Blazers are about as cash-strapped as anyone out there, so they had very little room to work with in free agency. They made some minor moves but nothing of real note. They had a solid draft, but picked Simons who is a long-term project. And they had to let some decent players go in free agency. The best thing that happened to the Blazers this summer was re-signing Jusuf Nurkic. Other than that, it was a pretty mediocre offseason for Portland.

Oklahoma City Thunder, A

2017-18 finish: 48-34, 1st round of playoffs
In: G Dennis Schroeder, C Nerlens Noel, G Hamidou Diallo
Out: F Carmelo Anthony

GM Sam Presti deserves high praise for another strong offseason. Most of the acclaim comes from the Thunder re-signing Paul George despite the assumption of many he would leave in free agency. But OKC also snagged Noel on a cheap deal, adding more athleticism and depth behind center Steven Adams. And they got Schroeder back in the deal for Anthony when they could have shed his salary for nothing in return. They also added three second round picks, including Diallo who looked good in the Summer League. It's hard to imagine the Thunder doing better than they did, given the financial resources they were working with.

Utah Jazz, B

2017-18 finish: 48-34, 2nd round of playoffs
In: G Grayson Allen, F Tyler Cavanaugh
Out: F Jonas Jerebko

The Jazz get most of their points from re-signing players like Dante Exum, Raul Neto and Derrick Favors. Though the price tag for Favors is a little high, they did a nice job of bringing the band back together, knowing they have an opportunity to get better this season simply by having Rudy Gobert stay healthy. The Allen pick has potential to work out very well for them. He looked good in the Summer League and should complement Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio well at the guard position. All in all, there was nothing flashy for the Jazz but they made some solid, smart decisions.

Minnesota Timberwolves, C

2017-18 finish: 47-35, 1st round of playoffs
In: F Anthony Tolliver, G Josh Okogie, F Keita Bates-Diop
Out: F Nemanja Bjelica

The Wolves have enough salary committed to where they could only do so much this summer. Tolliver is a nice pickup and should add shooting to their frontcourt. Bates-Diop gives them nice value as a second round pick. It would have been nice to see the Wolves change something via trade, but they have reason to believe they can get better if Karl-Anthony Towns continues to ascend and Andrew Wiggins reclaims his form as a scorer.

Denver Nuggets, B+

2017-18 finish: 46-36, missed playoffs
In: G Isaiah Thomas, F Michael Porter, Jr. 
Out: F Wilson Chandler, G Devin Harris

The Nuggets had a solid offseason just as they get ready to make a big leap forward as a franchise. They re-signed Nikola Jokic to a long-term deal, added Thomas on a low-risk contract and took a chance on Porter in the draft. They lost Chandler in a salary dump, but have the tools to win 50-plus games next season. Thomas could be a big difference maker if healthy and Porter gives them another building block for the future. If he can get past his back injury, he will fit in nicely with their young core.

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2018-19 Metropolitan Division preview: Carolina Hurricanes

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2018-19 Metropolitan Division preview: Carolina Hurricanes

The Capitals have won the Metropolitan Division three straight years. Can they defend their title? Here’s a preview of each team in the division for the 2018-19 season.

Today's team: Carolina Hurricanes

2017-18 Results: 36-35-11, 83 points, sixth in the division. Did not qualify for the playoffs.

Notable acquisitions: F Micheal Ferland, F Andrei Svechnikov, D Dougie Hamilton, D Calvin de Haan, G Petr Mrazek, head coach Rod Brind’Amour

Notable departures: F Elias Lindholm, F Joakim Nordstrom, F Derek Ryan, F Jeff Skinner, F Lee Stempniak, D Noah Hanifin, G Cam Ward, head coach Bill Peters

When they will play the Caps: Dec. 14 in Raleigh, Dec. 27 in Washington, March 26 in Washington, March 28 in Raleigh

Offseason recap: The offseason was one of change for the Hurricanes as new owner Tom Dundon tried to make his mark. Peters and Ron Francis are out, Brind’Amour and Don Waddell are in as coach and general manager. Carolina’s new front office had a busy offseason with a number of splashy moves.

Hanifin, Lindholm and Skinner all will have new homes next season as the Hurricanes traded all three players in two big-time trades. Hanifin and Lindholm netted the team Hamilton, Ferland and a prospect while Skinner brought back a prospect, a second, a third and a sixth-round pick.

In addition, Carolina also added Svechnikov with the second-overall pick in the draft.

Biggest strength: Defense

Carolina was solid defensively last season, it just didn't seem that way because of how bad the goaltending was. Adding de Haan and Hamilton bolsters what was already a formidable blue line.

Biggest weakness: Goaltending

Did I mention how bad their goaltending was last season? Darling and Ward combined for a .909 save percentage, better only than the Buffalo Sabres. Ward put up better numbers (2.73 GAA, .906 save percentage) than Darling (3.18 GAA, .888 save percentage), but he has moved on to the Chicago Blackhawks. To replace him, the Hurricanes picked up Mrazek who also struggled last season (3.03 GAA, .902 save percentage).

So to recap, Ward and Darling both had subpar years, but to replace Ward the Hurricanes picked up a goalie who was worse.

It makes sense that Carolina would want to give Darling another shot at earning the starting job considering they traded for him to be their starter of the future, but just because the goaltending could not get much worse than last season is no guarantee it will be better.

2018-19 season outlook: The Hurricanes enter the season with a lot of question marks.

Can Brind'Amour handle the responsibilities of being a head coach in the NHL with zero head coaching experience at any level? Did they do enough to address their scoring woes? Will someone play like a starting-caliber goalie? Is Dundon breaking the mold of an NHL owner or will his meddling negatively impact the team? Will Hamilton adjust to his new team? Is Svetchnikov ready for a top-line role in his rookie season? Is Sebastian Aho a center?

If they can find positive answers to all of those questions, this is a team that could surprise. More likely, however, there are simply too many issues in Carolina right now for this team to make any real noise.

A new owner, new general manager, new head coach and a new-look roster are too much for one team to adjust to in one season.

2018-19 season prediction: The Hurricanes miss the playoffs and it's not close.