NHL 2013-14: Optimistic Noel, Jets head to Western Conference with playoffs on their radar

Jets coach Claude Noel speaks in simple, straight-forward terms a lot of the time. He is one of these what-you-see-is-what-you-get leaders.

So, it should come as no surprise to see his illustration for Winnipeg this season, especially when his Jets just missed the playoffs last season.

"I clearly see that we have to make the playoffs," he said in June. "But it's not easy to make the playoffs."

He's right.

Last season, the Jets finished ninth in the East, four points behind the No. 8 New York Islanders. Winnipeg captured hearts in Canada and was in contention into the final week of the season. In the end, the Jets seemed to have everything, in fact, except a berth.

So, like some other teams in Canada — Calgary and Edmonton last year — the Jets will try, try again to find that elusive spot this season. It won't be easy, as Noel points out. The Jets are now in the Western Conference, as part of NHL realignment, and are in a division with Stanley Cup-champion Chicago, Minnesota and St. Louis.

Winnipeg opens vs. Edmonton on Oct. 1.