I myself believe you're right. We use FBPanel now and it is much beytter but the main reason wee need the panel is for System Tray and Places.
Now, I'd be happy, more than happy, beying able to create new modules for E17 such as a system tray, a places plugin and so on but... I am not a programmer. Anyone willing to help has always been invited here
No one seems to be willing to help here in E17 developing for now... hope things will change soon. As soon as we can only use E17 shelves, i'll really be happy