Granted i have not followed lotro from the beginning, so i have no idea what plans they had for the game, what code might have been in there on release and so on.
While lotro might not be anything new to the MMO-market, i my opinion Turbine is bringing something new to the genre, and that is big, regular updates. If they contiue to release free updates, at the same size of the two they have already released, i would say that is a major improvement over the other current MMOs out there. I might be wrong, but i do not think i have seen any MMO release That big updates, in such a short time.
So while lotro might not be something new in terms of gameplay, nor setting, i'd say it's something new in terms of free updates which adds so much more to the game.