There has been so much change with the Avalanche since last season, and much of it has been refreshing. A new role for Joe Sakic, the return of Patrick Roy, the drafting of Nathan Mac- Kinnon — even a new JumboTron coming soon to the Pepsi Center.

One thing that did not change enough, though: the Avs' mediocre defense.

True, the Avs acquired veterans Cory Sarich and Andre Benoit. True, five of their seven picks in the draft last weekend were defensemen, including Chris Bigras with the 32nd pick. But none of those changes will make the Avs much better on defense next season.

Sarich has seen better days and Benoit, though he could prove to be a bargain pickup, had a journeyman minor-league career before getting ice time with Ottawa last season after Erik Karlsson was injured.

Otherwise, this still looks like the Avalanche defense of the past few years, a defense that gets pinned in its own zone too easily and can't do anything offensively. Colorado's defense contributed only four goals — that's right, four — to the offense last season.

The key defensive numbers also weren't pretty. Colorado's average of 3.12 goals allowed per game ranked 26th in the NHL. Two years ago, it was 3.5 allowed per game allowed — dead last.

The Avs allowed an average of 31.4 shots per game last season, ranking 25th in the league.

As it stands, the Avs will go into next season with possibly the same top six on defense. Sarich or Benoit could change that, but otherwise we're still looking at a possible top six of Erik Johnson, Jan Hejda, Ryan Wilson, Tyson Barrie, Stefan Elliott and Matt Hunwick.

That group isn't nearly good enough. The Avs believe Wilson's return from an injury should make the defense better, and that probably will be true. But he probably wouldn't crack the top four on a lot of NHL teams. We're not talking about a game-changing player here.