1. I will only use the EP strops when I want to finish a "bragging rights" edge - it takes much more time on the EP due to the smaller surface contact area, but should be more precise than freehand - in general I do not strop on the EP anymore - be brave, try free handing on a beater knife - it is so quick - just like 8 or 10 passes per side and you're done back to a screaming edge.
2. There is a difference in sharpness as well, over & above the aesthetics - finer finish will push cut better, but not last as long, or slice as good as a less refined edge - I am of the opinion that super refined edges should really only be applicable to shaving razors in the real world performance.
3. I am pretty sure that the wedging / stiction effect you are describing relates mainly to the blade grind / geometry - a less (flatter ground) blade will have more stiction - the "shine / finish" of the blade plays a very small role here.
4. My knives are tools - I do not tape them when sharpening, nor do I maintain the blade sides - the edge is priority - even with carbon blades - use them and keep them dry.
5. I have tested / tried pretty much most combinations and my preference has settled on the 1µ Boron Carbide from HA on split leather - brilliant, scary sharp with lovely teeth - best all round edge IMHO - good call to wait for the Shapton glass stones, join me in the queue.
I strop (freehand) my knives after EVERY use - this way it can be months before returning them to the stones.
The Blazen is a powder steel, which is harder, approx 61 to 63 Hrc - hence slightly more difficult to abrade.
Yep, take some blue, red & yellow pills and augment once weekly with the pink ones - those are some of the colors of the "rabbit hole" walls....