To be honest I wouldn't be too surprised if a lot of the long time writers are sick and tired of writing badge quests after doing so constantly for almost twenty years before Sun and Moon came out, though of course that's just conjecture. I wonder if maybe Daiki Tomiyasu isn't interested in doing one, seeing as he director both non-Gym series'?
For the topic thread I'd say that I at least find JN entertainingly hard to predict so speculation has been much more interesting than in the past; I was growing cynical about badge quests after AG and development since then has only strengthened that.
If they wanted to mix it up they could have made it so that trainers need to be a certain rank in the PWC or Galar equivalent before being able to challenge a specific gym. This keeps the PWC aspect and puts more importance on Ash making and maintaining progress up the ranks, and an intermediate goal to strive for between gyms.