Oh, it's been a lot longer than the past 3 or so seasons.
ECHA, NECHL, and CMHA are all rather poor compared to the rest of M1. They're bottom-feeder leagues in this division, and there's a history of them having teams that don't meet the minimum standard required by M1 rules for a league to receive an autobid to nationals (which those leagues depend on). But, since M1 doesn't know and enforce their own rules very well, they've been allowed to just skate on by.
Speaking of which, does anyone know what happened to that "substantial" NECHL fine Sheriff talked about last season when the whole autobid issue blew up? Has NECHL paid, or do they lose their autobid this year?