NHL Insider: Lidstrom’s still got it

We here in Detroit never think our athletes get enough recognition, especially since ESPN seems to favor East Coast (read: New York) players.

But sometimes a player has one of those seasons and everyone takes note.

That player is Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom. Everyone in Detroit knows how special the six-time Norris Trophy winner is, but with the All-Star Game coming up and midseason reports coming out, others have noticed him, too.

Lidstrom, 40, was the only Red Wings player selected for the All-Star Game. Lidstrom is tied with 25-year-old Dustin Byfuglien for the scoring lead among defensemen with 41 points. However, Lidstrom has needed two fewer games to reach that figure.

NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen, appearing on the Blackberry All-Access Pregame Show, chose Lidstrom as his midseason front-runner for the Norris Trophy ahead of Byfuglien and Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang.

“He’s 40, he looks 30, he plays like he’s 25,” Rosen said. “He’s just been excellent for one of the best teams in the league. He’s been great on the power play. His points, he’s had to pick up his point pace with (Pavel) Datsyuk out and now he’s had to pick up some of the defense with (Brad) Stuart out. I just think he’s still, even at 40, the best defenseman in the game.”

USA Today hockey writer Kevin Allen agreed with Rosen in giving his first-half awards.

“It’s fair to debate if Lidstrom or Doug Harvey ranks second behind Bobby Orr on the list of all-time great NHL defensemen,” Allen wrote.

Orr offered his take on Lidstrom to ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun last month.

“I don’t think there’s any question he’s in that conversation, no question,” Orr told ESPN.com. “I mean, you talk about longevity, he’s 40, and putting the numbers that he puts up. The success that team has had is mainly because of his play; it’s been incredible. He’s a class individual. Never heard a bad word about the man. And he plays the way he plays. What else can you ask for?”

Apparently some were asking for more from Lidstrom last season. He had nine goals and 40 assists in 82 games, a drop of 10 points from the previous season and a drop of 21 points from the 2007-08 season. Because he turned 40, some assumed Lidstrom’s game was on the decline.

Wings coach Mike Babcock said he thought the drop-off was because of all the injuries the Wings had, which meant Lidstrom was playing with less talented players.

Current Tampa Bay Lightning general manager and former Wings vice president Steve Yzerman agreed.

“(Wings GM) Kenny (Holland) and I came back from the Olympics last year and we both agreed