LEADING MAN? NOT WITH THE RED WINGS

DENVER — Hollywood is interested. They want a hockey movie. They dispatch a young producer to the Western Conference finals to assemble a cast. He wears sunglasses, a diamond earring, a leather coat and four cell phones.

He asks me to help.

“I hear this Detroit team is loaded with stars,” the producer says.

It is, I say.

“Good. Get me the guy without a spleen.”

I beg your pardon?

“The guy without a spleen. Sign him up. The Spleenless Swede. I love it!”

You mean Fredrik Olausson, I say?

“Whatever,” he says. “Just as long as he doesn’t have a spleen.”

I tell him Olausson is a fine defenseman, who scored a huge overtime goal in Game 3 against the Avalanche. But that was unusual. When it comes to Red Wings stars, Olausson is hardly the first one mentioned.

“I know that,” the producer says, flossing his teeth. “What’d you think? I was born yesterday?”

So you want Brett Hull, I say. A sure Hall of Famer? More than 600 career goals? Great bloodline?

“Hull? Hmm. Don’t know him,” he says. “Ooh. Get me the Malted Milk guy!”

The Malted Milk guy?

“Yeah. Big star. Got a beard. A great scorer. Gets in lots of fights?”

Kirk Maltby?

“Whatever. We can change his name. Malted Milk. Spleenless Swede. I love it!”

His cell phone rings.

“Hold that thought,” he says.

How about the Beatle’s son . . .

I explain that Kirk Maltby, though a steady contributor on the Grind Line who had a nice goal in Game 2, is also not exactly the first star mentioned when you talk Wings.

“I know that,” the producer says, spreading gel in his hair. “Who you think got this project green-lighted?”

So you want one of the big goal-scorers?

“Get the Irishman,” he says.

Ah. Brendan Shanahan. Good choice. He’s tied for the team lead in playoff points.

“Shanahan?” he says. “Who’s Shanahan? I said the Irishman. McCarty.”

Darren McCarty?

“I know, I know. He’s gonna cost a lot. Whatever it takes. I see big things. That kid is a scoring machine. Hey. Is he that Beatle guy’s son?”

The Beatle guy?

“Paul.”

No, I say. Darren McCarty is not Paul McCartney’s son. I explain that while Darren did indeed have three goals in Game 1, that was the first time it happened in his career. In fact, Darren hadn’t been having a great season before that.

“Hmm,” the producer says, “then we can probably get him cheaper.”

Can I ask you something?

“Fire away,” he says, wiping his sunglasses.

How long have you been watching hockey?

“Forever!” he sighs. “Like, a whole week.”

Ah.

His cell phone rings.

“Hold that thought,” he says.

The eight-legged star

Now it’s true, I explain, in the past week, the All-Star cast of the Red Wings has mostly stayed away from the scoreboard. The goals have come largely from grinders or defensemen. But goals are not all that matter. The way the goals get set up, the shots that lead to rebounds, the talent that draws the defense away, leaving more room for the supporting cast — it is all part of why the Wings are leading this series despite a lack of goals from their sharpshooters.

“Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh,” the producer says, filing his cuticles, “all very interesting. Now. I need a lead actor.”

I take out a media guide. I show him photos. Steve Yzerman, I suggest. Team captain? Great leader?

“Don’t know him,” the producer says. “Anyhow, too good-looking. Nobody would believe he’s a hockey player.”

Nicklas Lidstrom, I say? Great defenseman from Sweden? Won the Norris Trophy?

“Does he have his spleen?” he asks.

I think so.

“Pass,” he says.

How about Sergei Fedorov? Playing massive minutes? Doing a great job on both ends?

“Fedorov, Fedorov,” he says. “Wait. I heard of him!”

Finally.

“Yeah. He’s the guy with Anna Kournikova. Saaaaay. You think we can get her?”

I shake my head. Perhaps this is hopeless. I show him Igor Larionov, Chris Chelios, Luc Robitaille. Nothing registers. I show him Dominik Hasek, whom he doesn’t know without a mask. Then Scotty Bowman. Nothing.

His cell phone rings.

“Hold that thought,” he says.

I gather up the pictures. I put on my coat. I go to leave.

“Waaaaait,” he says, dropping the phone. “Who’s THAT? He’s got a great look! I’m seeing Spider-Man! I’m seeing Yoda! I gotta have him! What’s he gonna cost?”

That’s an octopus, I say.

“Oh,” he says. “Does he have an agent?”

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. Catch “Albom in the Afternoon” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).

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