|After a breakout season with the Rochester Americans in 2008-09, Mike Brodeur is working hard to make his mark with the Ottawa Senators' American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y. (Photo by Just Sports Photography).
Mike Brodeur chuckles and admits that yes, he's heard the question plenty of times before.
Then again, when you share the same last name as one of the National Hockey League's all-time great goaltenders, it's pretty much unavoidable.
"He wouldn't be at my family reunion but it's deep in the family tree," the Binghamton Senators netminder said of New Jersey Devils stopper Martin Brodeur, the NHL's career leader in victories and a three-time Stanley Cup champion.
"My uncle told me that last year. I used to say no (we're not related), but last summer, the family tree got dug up and he's in there somewhere."
Mind you, Brodeur would much prefer to not live on that distant family connection. Instead, he's trying to make his own name with the Ottawa Senators' top affiliate in the American Hockey League.
The 26-year-old native of Calgary signed a one-year contact with the Senators during the summer after a breakout AHL campaign with the Rochester Americans in 2008-09, when he posted an 18-13-4 record with a 2.45 goals-against average and .921 save percentage. All were career bests for the former seventh-round pick (211th overall) by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
Quite the finish for a guy who started the year with the Augusta Lynx of the East Coast Hockey League but found himself out of work when the franchise folded during the season. But he wound up landing employment with the Amerks, the top farm team of the Florida Panthers.
"I took advantage of an opportunity in Rochester and had a great year," said Brodeur, who spent the previous four seasons in the Blackhawks organization, bouncing between their affiliates in the AHL (Norfolk and Rockford) and the ECHL.
The Senators were also paying attention and were happy to add Brodeur to their goaltending mix in Binghamton, where he forms a tandem with Andy Chiodo.
"We played (Rochester) a few times and he played very well," said Senators assistant general manager Tim Murray, who oversees Ottawa's top prospects in Binghamton. "He was a guy that was kind of plagued by injuries in the past and we think he's through that now and has a chance to blossom. We thought he could be a No. 1 goalie in the American league and No. 2, we hope going forward, that he can be better than that."
Brodeur's numbers this season have mirrored that of the B-Sens, who are now 2-3-2 after dropping a 4-2 decision in Rochester on Wednesday night. Before last night, Brodeur – who relieved Chiodo after Binghamton fell behind 3-0 in the first 20 minutes – owned a 2-1-0 record with a 3.26 GAA and .887 save percentage.
"He was a guy that was kind of plagued by injuries in the past and we think he's through that now and has a chance to blossom. We thought he could be a No. 1 goalie in the American league and No. 2, we hope going forward, that he can be better than that." - Tim Murray
"I need to be better and I know I can be better," the 6-2, 167-pound Brodeur said earlier today. "I've had spots here where I thought I've been great and spots where I thought I've been average. Personally, I think my goal is to be better every night. I need to work on my positioning. I need to be more aggressive at the top of the crease to play at that next level.
"And I think I also need to work on the mental side of my game. Small things like letting goals go and battling through things. Selective amnesia is how I put it... forgetting about the bad nights and moving on."
The fact he's only on a one-year contract with the Senators organization adds to Brodeur's urgency to keep stepping up his game.
"You've got to perform every night," he said. "You live day-by-day every day. A one-year contract is a good thing in a way. There's no complacency. It makes you want to prove yourself and prove that I can earn a (multi-) year contract."
"It's a great opportunity for me. I'm working hard and trying to make it at the next level."
Brodeur and the B-Sens will make an appearance at Scotiabank Place on Nov. 8, facing off against the Hamilton Bulldogs, the primary affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens. It's scheduled for a 3 p.m. puck drop.Bingo calling
The B-Sens spend the rest of the week on the road, facing the Syracuse Crunch (Columbus Blue Jackets) on Friday night and the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals) on Saturday ... Binghamton captain Denis Hamel record his 250th career AHL assist on Oct. 16 vs. the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. He's recorded points in all seven B-Sens games this season, including a team-high six assists ... Martin St. Pierre, who also has six helpers, is Binghamton's points leader with 10, while Ryan Keller leads the way in goals with five.