Ah, this also explains marcH's points a bit better. I still contend that this is not a "centralized vs. distributed" issue, then, but really a matter of linear vs. non-linear history, and branch management between releases. Certainly the "centralized repo" tools that I'm familiar with have gained better branch and merge support over the years, and more easily support long lived branches and feature branches, without rebasing after each release.
It works in this case because trunk has no other branches than stable, and stable is (obviously) never merged back into trunk. That same workflow works even with a distributed system (by rebasing before pushing to the main repo, for example). It blends history among developers, however, which can be a disadvantage at times, especially with many developers and features in active development.