It's the maintainer's job to smooth things over and make sure the distro will work for the largest amount of users. This might involve mean patching the kernel (all distros); it might involve pulling out-of-tree branches (Fedora, I'm looking at you); it most certainly doesn't mean sitting back and enjoying the carnage when widely-used software stops working for one reason or another.
I don't see this as a bad thing. The maintainer frees the kernel devs from the burden of supporting legacy software. Sooner or later, the legacy software will either be upgraded or it will become too costly to maintain and will be dropped (see Arch and fglrx).