Get rid of the letters: AAA, AA, A, B. Go Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3.
Tier 1 is the top % in each birth year.
Tier 3 is the low end / beginning travel player
Tier 2 is everyone else.
You're either Elite at the top, beginner or low end at the bottom or in between. Imo 3 levels is the only way to go!
Tier 1 - 4 teams in the entire Atlantic District at each birth year. North, South, East and West. Coaches get hired DIRECTLY by the district just like making the Quebec team, etc...
These 4 clubs play each other 8 times a season (4H/4A). That's 24 games. Play remaining schedule in other leagues like T1Elite League, ECEL, etc... and top end tournaments.
Tier 2 - Whether it be NJYHL, DVHL, EJEPL, Independent, etc...
Tier 3 - The "Beginner" travel level, what A & B has become.
Another Option if nobody wants to go the way I mentioned above would be...
If you already have an AYHL or Independent Tier 1 charter via AAHA, make them earn it on the ice. How?
Have tryouts like normal in April. Make every Tier 1 team that applies play in an AAHA tournament. The Final 4 standing get Tier 1 status at each birth year. Everyone else falls to Tier 2. Now you have a year to keep those kids together and coach them, we'll see where they land in next years Tier 1 AAHA Seeding tournament.
Competition is the only way to decide this. You give EVERY CLUB a chance to declare, but parents will have to make serious decisions on which team to pick to see if they have a legitimate chance at being 1 of the 4 teams that get Tier 1 status for the season. If they fail, they play Tier 2 and they can enter Tier 1 tournaments, non-league games, etc...
Don't base it off "criteria", imo that never works!
Let the Debate begin!