It may very well be case. If you spend most of the time in the GUI of some (any) application, then the desktop shell is not that important, as long as it gives you a convenient way to start said application.
But the environment is really important in some cases. Take bash for instance. It has a crapload of features that enhance your productivity, even if it's only purpose is starting tools and feeding them file names. It seems obvious to me that when you need to use many tools in coordination is when the environment really matters.