Good points, Gordon, although presumably there is now considerably more young Lagavulin available for IB's than there was, for a time, 16yo stock for the single. (Sixteen years ago now is 1989, and twelve, 1993, so I think the crisis must be past.) The Signatory 5yo CS Islay I recently picked up was flogged to me a while back as Lagavulin, but on reflection, I think Caol Ila much more likely.
Lagavulin was my first love, also, although I now have trouble with it (isn't that always the way?). But I have a distinct memory of finding Laphroaig quite distasteful, and being surprised to find I quite liked it after several years of not tasting one. Coupling that fact with the testimony of many like you, I can only conclude that it has indeed softened, and I very much regret that I did not get the chance to learn to love the original love-it-or-hate-it stuff. I wonder if any of the IB's are in the old vein--I've seen the MMcD Leapfrog occasionally. Should I jump on one?
As for comparisons, I have to agree with Admiral--the only fair comparison is between the bottlings the individual distilleries choose to represent them as their flagship offerings, regardless of age. (I reach a different conclusion, however.) Surely Lagavulin would object to representation by the Frankenmalt conceived by Dr Frodo!