I have watched Days for 17 years, but took a loooonnng break after the Marlena is the Devil storyline.
I just started watching again last September, so I don't really know the old Shawn and Belle. I did see the old Shawn for a month before the recast. And to be honest, I like the new one better, he seems more "macho" (for lack of a better word) Nothing against the old Shawn, I just think they were trying to age him a bit.. Same thing with the old Belle. I saw a picture of her, and she seems so young looking. They needed to age her a bit.
I think they just painted this story into a corner, and really have nowhere to go with it except for island adventures, which are getting stale.