Yep, he will forever be the one and the only Plushenko, and that's saying a lot. He gets loads of respect from people, even those who are not necessarily huge fans. He unfortunately lost his perspective and sportsmanlike attitude when Lysacek won gold in 2010. Certainly Lysacek is not a skating God, but Plush's reaction to being beat did not win him any fans (particularly among TPTB in fs and general public). Sure "in the last couple of years," Plush has been working on his carriage over the ice, on his artistic side, and on transitions more than he had been doing circa 2003 - 2006. When Plush came back for 2010 Olympics, he was still relying on jumps, charm and footwork, while his upper body was not doing very much.
Yes, figure skating is a very subjective sport, GoGreen. Yes, take Yags out of the equation too. You're right, Plush did have some kickin' artistic programs (for that era) before and after Yags retired. And in any case, I'm not one of those Yags ubers who believes that Yags was such a King in the area of artistry either. Under TT's tutelage, Yags was just beginning to explore his artistic side at 2002 Olympics. Both Yags and Plush were initially coached by Mishin, so the focus for both of them was more heavily on jumps, IMO. Again, Yags left Mishin and began to expand his focus. I concede that Plush wasn't a total slouch artistically once Yags retired. But Plush did not continue to deeply explore artistic expression because he had no one to challenge him consistently in that area.
Plush's artistry is not nonexistent (it is rather distinctive, instinctive and deriving from his personality). However, landing his jumps with a more upright carriage, paying attention to stretch, grace, fluidity and smooth moves over the ice was never Plush's strong suit. And it wasn't until Johnny Weir came along circa 2004 - 2006 that those qualities began to be more appreciated, sought after, and rewarded in skaters like Buttle and Lambiel. Even Joubert had to struggle with the new way men were being looked at. IOW, Joubert too had to begin working harder on improving his landing carriage, choreo, stretch, spin positions, and transitions (and obviously all of these factors also became more important under the new judging system).