Kentington, good point on the deadbeating aspect. No rank/scoring could lead to increased apathy in regard to completing games.
I am trying to follow the train of thought of the OP and bring this all to its natural conclusion. His theory is that most people who try out the game are actually casual users and are really just looking for a place to play risk in its purest form. While these new players may or may not stay for the long haul and eventually become premium members, they must at least find the fix they are looking for in order to give the site a chance. Admittedly a new player could find his first experience discouraging, never coming back. It is one explanation that could explain the decline of cc.
I myself agree in part with the OP's theory in that the reason the site is in decline is because it has drifted away from the original spirit of the game. Yes, convoluted maps and strange settings, while they bring a temporary breath of fresh air to the game, end up being havens for point farming and tend to scare away "casual" players. But I think at the root is the points system, for these maps and settings would be far less popular without it.
The site has a tendency to create a sort of evolution in a player once they become acquainted:
Brand New player- "This is so cool, I can play risk anytime I want!" ---> (level 10 fun meter)
Learning the ropes- "Hmm, Seems like ranks means a lot in this community..." --->(level 8 fun)
Climbing the ladder- (level 5-8 fun, depending on how much you win) --->
Plateau- Here is where a lot of players leave I think. The site focuses so much on points that I believe a lot of people lose interest. Unless you have a very strong lust for competition or are involved socially, this site could become a real drag, some would say fatally flawed. With the spirit of the game robbed by the points system, each game becomes a means to an end. The hugely successful board game was never like this. There was much more "living in the moment" excitement. Some people may pay for premium while in the frenzy of seeking higher rank but will they re-subscribe? Most likely not.
The more games players want to play, the more likely they will buy premium. If the general mood of the site were shifted by a major overhaul of not disposal of the points sytem I think that new/casual players would stay longer and want to play more games. This leads to more premium subscriptions. As far as the dissolution of the current hierarchy, most people believe in their heart of hearts that tournaments are a better sign of skill than rank anyway so let that determine the conqueror and even all rank.
My only suggestion about something that would draw players into a premium membership is maybe to have that be a condition to being a member of a clan? The whole axis of the site would have shifted at this point so who knows, maybe clan wars/tournaments would be the driving force of the site, pick up games becoming tools to hone our skills. Doesn't it all sound glorious? Let us break the chains of sad attachment to rank and let the teaming masses clash.